Topic: EDITORS_NOTE

Fixing the Fix

This month’s Editor’s Note comes from a valued guest contributor, current NFL veteran Josh Shaw.

My name is Josh Shaw, I am a 5-year NFL Veteran. I have a beautiful wife who is my high school sweetheart. We have been married for four years, and we have three beautiful children together and one on the way.

In November 2019, I was suspended from the NFL. My suspension was due to me being irresponsible and making a bad choice. I wagered on professional sports. Once the news came out that I was suspended from the league for my actions I was devastated. The job I loved had been taken from me. Although I was disappointed in myself for my actions, my suspension was a blessing in disguise. I am thankful for my suspension because it helped me realize I had a gambling addiction. Before my suspension I had no idea, I had a problem with gambling. Although my gambling stems from table games, my one mistake opened my eyes to see the bigger picture of my addiction. My suspension allowed me the time to self-evaluate and realize how big my addiction to gambling was.

I am thankful for my suspension because it helped me realize I had a gambling addiction…I had no idea.

I accepted that I had a gambling addiction, the first step I took was informing my wife. My wife and I agreed that it would be best to seek professional help from a counselor. I took the time to reach out to the NFL and they directed me to my current counselor, who has helped me tremendously in my recovery process. Counseling has really helped me get to the root of my gambling issues, realizing what I often experienced while gambling is a pleasure chemical known as dopamine. I would have never thought I would be seeking help from a counselor. In fact, as a high-level athlete we are always told to be tough, suck it up, never show a sign of weakness etc. Counseling is typically frowned upon by men. A large part of that is our pride. We tend to think we can handle issues on our own. This stereotype surrounding counseling needs to change!

I would have never thought I would be seeking help from a counselor…[athletes] tend to think we can handle issues on our own.

In addition to counseling another effective tool for me has been attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings. Here I was able to be around so many people from different walks of life. Whether past or present, at some point everyone taking part of the GA sessions has been negatively affected by gambling. It has been helpful to be around a group of people talking about their experiences with gambling. The common denominator with everyone that has overcome their struggles was to accept that there was a problem. When this happens then the healing can begin.

Gambling was always something I looked forward to. It was the most fun hobby I had. Through counseling I realized I needed to do other things I was passionate about to keep busy. In March of 2020 I began training kids, teenagers, and young adults. God has continued to open door after door for me. I recently began training two future 2021 NFL draft prospects that opted out of their senior seasons. I love the fact that I can help educate them on what steps to take to ensure they have the tools to remain successful as they become a part of the National Football League.

The Professional Athlete’s Foundation has partnered with EPIC Risk Management to bring program content and education on problem gambling, which will be tailored to meet the mental health needs of NFLPA members.  The PAF and EPIC Risk Management are committed to educating our athletes and families on warning signs of problem gambling which can be difficult to spot as problem gambling is often referred to as the hidden addiction.  Those with gambling disorders and addictive tendencies will receive our unyielding support.   

Be deliberate about recreation and self-care

Dear Former Players and Families,

Wow 2020 is really trying to go out with a literal bang! These are exciting times as well as stressful times. Which leads me to say this, I wholeheartedly and sincerely support any American’s right to vote how they see fit. This is what makes us American and makes our nation great. People worldwide do not enjoy civil liberty in the same way us Americans do. 

I don’t take those freedoms for granted, but I also don’t spend much time thinking about civil rights being taken away. I trust our democracy when it comes to basic entitlements. But today I’m exhausted and wiped out. So, this message is a call to take care. A call to take care of self. 

Be mindful of the pandemic, politics, social justice, an up and down economy, unemployment, work from home and school from home. Our emotional resources and internal strengths are being drained, strained, and stretched beyond our understanding. I want to offer this advice and I’ll be sure to apply it to my own life. Find your happy. Find your sweet spot and be deliberate about recreation and self-care.

Let’s revisit our PAF Peptalk series from April on ‘Stress Management’. Click on the links below to hear the conversation and download the stress management toolkit.

PAF PepTalk on Stress management


PAF Stress Management Toolkit

(Or cut and paste the following link into your search for Toolkit)  bit.ly/38intHk

And remember, action creates opportunity,

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Andre Collins
Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

What Lesson is 2020 Trying to Teach?

Today I’m sitting on my front stoop, not in the back. I wanted to see who’s out here enjoying the late afternoon sun. It feels like September, the sun sitting low in the sky, casting long shadows… I love how this feels. Life shouldn’t be a constant critique of what I did the hour before. Sometimes I do get to breathe and just be.

But something’s tugging on me.

Life’s not acting perfect right now. The coronavirus has life on the ropes for a standing 8 count. COVID-19 is a raw deal. But what lesson is this virus trying to teach? 

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Andre Collins, Executive Director

We already know disease in general can be cruel and unforgiving. We already know life is fragile and not to take life’s fragility for granted. We know what it means to take care of each other …we don’t always do it.  But we know how to be responsible and loving.

COVID-19’s lesson may be hiding in plain sight, pleading with you to search and find. Asking you to realize the opportunity to grow as you stay at home.

I’ve had more than a few good teachers and mentors in my life. A treasure chest of words to live by. But a most valuable lesson is ‘living in the moment’, a foundation for stability and emotional well-being. Living in the moment has untapped potential; a power underutilized and not exercised.

To your detriment, human nature betrays you into looking too far ahead in life and at times too far behind. You can’t predict the future and the past can’t make you perform better today….

  • Don’t overthink your next move. Just move.
  • Avoid writing a doomed ending to your story without going on the journey.
  • Live moment to moment and be thrilled with what’s literally in sight.
  • Notice new things. Look up and look out! Don’t keep your head down.
  • Learn to understand what you’re feeling

Open your eyes. What do you see?  Be here right now. Be still.

Open your eyes. Life is exhilarating if you let it!

… sun casting long shadows… I love how this feels!

2020 is not cancelled.

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Andre Collins
Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Visit www.PAFwellnessretreat.com
Action Creates Opportunity.

Get a new “set of downs”

Dear Fellow Former Players & Families,

How is the PAF different from other programs for former NFL players?

Many years ago, we recognized that former players needed help through difficult financial situations. So, the NFLPA took a brave step in creating the Professional Athletes Foundation (PAF) to help former NFL players, a group of men the world perceived as ‘having it all’. 

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Andre Collins, Executive Director

The PAF has come a long way since its inception in 1990. This year, in 2020, we are celebrating our 30th anniversary. In that first year, we delivered just one grant for $1,000. Today we help more than 500 former players every year. 

‘Good work’ doesn’t come without risk, but the reward for helping to rebuild players’ lives is evident in the generosity these players pour back into their communities. 

Our 30th year gives us an opportunity to reflect on our work. We know life is hard and realize there are lots of ‘fourth and one” situations. We will help you get a new “set of downs”. 

The PAF will never forget how important it is to care for those we serve. You have wives, families, children, and careers. You are men of influence. You are great! 

Action Creates Opportunity. The PAF is here as a resource. Stay connected. Let our experience of working through difficult situations guide you through this unprecedented time.  

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Your Opportunities Await

Dear Fellow Former Players & Families,

Looking ahead summer is a great time to focus on self, health, nutrition and spending time with family. YourPAF.com will continue to listen and deliver what you like in a way that it is beneficial to your growth. We are on a journey with you and we have strong legs and lots of experience serving former NFL players. We’re better than ever right now working to serve you during this COVID-19 slowdown!

Andre Collins, Executive Director

As a non-profit organization the Professional Athletes Foundation (PAF) is focused on supporting the advancement of former players through a wide range of services and resources.

Together we will work through this tough time, and I believe the PAF can make a difference. Continue to grow and challenge yourself. And we will do our part to honor your playing careers and the positive images you as former NFL players project in the community. 

Become familiar with www.yourPAF.com You will learn this site is dedicated to creating an environment that confirms life is good and there is success and fulfillment after football.

With yourpaf.com, you now have a door to the largest collection of resources and shareable information pertaining to the lives of former NFL players.

Using your smart phone, desktop computer, or tablet you will find:

  • Important lifestyle topics about Body, Mind, Money and Relationships
  • Quick access to programs & services created just for you
  • Simple, yet powerful, ways to improve the quality of your life

Opportunities are waiting…

While playing football we relied on having the best information and training available. Life is no different. Information leads to action and Action Creates Opportunity!

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

The PAF is Open and Ready to Help

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

These are difficult times, as we are faced with many unknowns about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on how we live our lives.

As the virus continues to spread, please take extreme precautions and follow your home state’s orders and recommendations to ensure that you and your loved ones are safe and protected.

Please utilize resources from the following organizations as they provide up-to-date information:

The Professional Athletes Foundation (PAF) is open and continues to monitor this public health emergency. We are readied to help with problems as they arise and are prepared to act for our players and their families, as needed.

For more information on the PAF please contact us: P: (800) 372-2000 professionalathletesfoundation@nflpa.comyourpaf.com | @yourPAF

Sincerely,

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Kind Acts are Life Changing

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

2020 is proving to be a challenging time in America’s history. Emotions around social justice are high and concerns about a normal way of life after COVID -19 persist. I will never make light of heavy real-life issues, but life will go on. Opportunity exists for another lesson in resiliency and growth.

It’s ok to live in the gravity of the moment, but at the same time be amazed by your kids, laugh with your wife, and share a hotdog with mustard only. Get lost in the creativity and interests of others. Smile at kids playing. Tip your hat to the old guys outside the store. Lend a hand when you can and grow into new spaces.

Even though life has challenges, victories and then more setbacks; living still feels good!

All days aren’t good days. Sometimes I’m irritated and after all these years do things I regret. Still, this is a time to focus on caring for others and approaching life with truth. Keep life simple. Control the things you can control. Pause and listen for direction in the whispers.

Kind acts are life changing. When I was 8 years old, a lady from a rival football club, the Westmont Tigers, offered to pay for my hotdog and Marathon bar. My team, the Palmyra Pals, had lost to Westmont early in the season, but we were at the championship game to cheer for our division rivals. 44 years later I vividly remember her long coat, tone of her voice and smile. After her offer I said, “but I’m for Westmont.” She replied, “I’m for Westmont too.” It was quick, but she made me feel special. It felt good and a little kindness goes a long way.

Accept who you are while putting in honest work to improve. Try to understand others and accept them for who they are and what they believe.

There is no limit to learning and no limit to the joy you can bring others. For years I looked for that woman at Westmont Tiger football games. I never saw her again, but I pay her generosity forward almost every chance I get at a concession stand.

Turning our hearts outward this month is an honorable action… A better way of life is a real opportunity. Action Creates the Opportunity.

Sincerely,

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Charcuterie, Napkins and Active Engagement

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Charcuterie is a French word that means the collection of cold cooked meats. Adding an assortment of cheeses to the mix creates something I decided to call “Active Engaged Eating”.

I don’t love cold meat as much as I love cheese. That’s why I have my own version of this eating experience that includes potato chips, cashews, apples, grapes and my favorite red wine infused cheese. Some may say potato chips and expensive cheese is two worlds clashing. But for me and my life, even knowing the word charcuterie is two worlds clashing!

The joy of putting different combinations of chips and fruit—and even nuts—together with every bite is exhilarating. The various groupings for the perfect mix of sweet and savory are endless.

But isn’t “Active Engaged Eating” a little bit like life. Through experiences, we must learn what we like and what we don’t like. We must try new things, we hear new words and we hear different points of view to become our best. When I put together the right combinations from my plate to create a taste that explodes, it feels like strategically assembling the right sequence of decisions that creates success and joy!

In the mindset of ‘trying to do your best’, just reaching for the chips and cheese is even fun. Do I choose a grape to go with this bite or the cashew? Do I wipe my hands on my jeans or keep it neat with a napkin?

Wiping your hands on your jeans symbolizes risk. But in real life we don’t always think we need a napkin. Like reaching for food, life should be fun picking the right people and experiences to engage. Seek to learn more in understanding fair business, honest work, a beneficial relationship or a path to good health. What are the risks, the rewards, the pitfalls? An active engaged life is necessary to own success.

So, take action!

Cheese and chips together are delicious. A napkin is better than your jeans.  And creating the right mix helps you understand real opportunity.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Making Myself New in 2020

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

I know it’s February, but I needed more time to work on my new year’s resolution. I wanted to think about it a bit. Not rush it. I needed to ask myself again…who am I?  What direction is best for my life this year because I always want to do better! 

My resolution:

Get fit spiritually…pray more, journal more. Don’t just go through the motions and check the box. My prayers will be focused, loving and persistent.

Get fit physically… I reached my goal weight twice in 2019. Not bad! But I can’t afford to flirt with my goal weight. I need to marry my goal weight and let “it” move in! I want to see “it” every morning at bathroom weigh-ins for 2020.

Financially, it’s time to focus more on my family’s future. Life is more than having enough money to do things today. I want to prepare my family’s future. I want my kids’ kids to know I was thinking about them long before their existence.   

Nonetheless, a resolution without action is just a lonely wish.  But a resolution with action guided by deliberateness, determination and consistency MAKES A MAN NEW.

We must tap into our potential and look beyond the two or three yards at our feet. We must see our destiny and our fortune. Today my motto is “Look up and look out”. I want to metaphorically see more in the distance than I’ve ever seen. I know I can do better, and my resolution will make me new… again.

Let your actions create opportunity. The next generation of you awaits!

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Monica Reyes on 2020:

Monica Reyes is an Awareness Strategist, TEDx Speaker and PAF partner.

I though I’d kick off the new year by saying wisdom doesn’t always grow from within. Sometimes we need to hear a different voice, a nudge from someone else, someone also focused on the path to a better self. Please enjoy this short piece from PAF Passport to Wellness consultant Monica Reyes. -Andre

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We’re three days into 2020, can you believe it? 

While most people plan around external goals, I like to add another layer of intentional growth into my life by also planning my internal goals. Personal development doesn’t have to happen in response to the events in your life. You can internally create your own conscious evolution by planning out your mental, emotional and spiritual growth. 

Here are four questions to begin thinking about what to focus on:

  • Where am I now in my life? What’s working for me, what’s not? 
  • What’s emerging for me? What are the possibilities + opportunities? What wants to happen?
  • What’s getting in the way or holding me back?
  • What do I need to develop? How am I being asked to grow? What do I need more of that will support me? What do I need to let go of or need less of?

These questions can be used in a meditation or journaling to bring up ideas. No judgement here, we all have things to work on. I’ve got my own personal development plan for 2020, what’s everyone working on this year? 

Watch my TEDx Talk – The Power of Awareness

“Be the Change You Wish to See in the World.” – Gandhi

#awareness #personaldevelopmentcoach #highperformancehabits #2020vision #goals #personalgrowth #intention #meditate #Kundalini #psychosynthesis #journaling #self-reflection

Like Monica’s thoughts, find out more:
www.MonicaEReyes.com
Instagram: @MonicaEReyes

Truthful Self-Evaluation is Not Quitting

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Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Our coaches, professors, pastors and other mentors are sometimes disappointed. In the moment, they teach such beautiful lessons, sharing great judgement and the wisdom of past experiences. The simplicity of their words is keen, and we understand. Their words ring truth and calm, it’s real and enlightening. Yet only a short time later, whether it be days or weeks, we return to poor decisions.  

What does it take to keep a mind focused to rise above chaos? How many times can one return to the madness before getting burned… evicted, divorced, repossessed, jailed, fired, IRS’d, or taken advantage of? 

Maturity comes when you learn your lesson and return to the mess less often. Human nature says you’re a creature of habit and will make some of the same mistakes. Still, let’s hope those mistakes are less or not at all, with less painful consequences and less harm to yourself and less hurt to your family. 

At some point you have to say, “I can’t do that anymore or go there anymore or invest time and money in that anymore”. 

Choosing a simpler and less complicated path is not giving up. Simplicity is allowing a chance for clarity and quiet. In that quiet, listen for a voice that whispers, “You’re doing your best. You can’t give anymore of yourself or create something out of nothing. If it isn’t working, maybe don’t force it.” 

Sometimes we push and push. I know from my experiences and by working with many players, we keep trying to win or get the play right, but the game is already over. A truthful evaluation of circumstances is not quitting. Many smart people suffer great loss in the strategy of pressing ahead at all costs. 

When you want something so badly that may never happen, you’re giving away an asset commonly known as time. I know what this practice has done for me. Prioritize. You can’t do everything. Sometimes listening to that quiet voice is the action that creates an opportunity to live your best life. 

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Opportunity for others and blessings for you

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Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

The Professional Athletes Foundation (PAF) team is ready for the season of giving. How about you? November is always a good time to reflect on the year and your personal bests. The PAF’s personal bests for 2019 include more than 500 financial assistance grants to former players and support services to an additional 200 former players through direct counseling or the PAF Passport to Wellness Couples Retreats.

We also hosted five Living Heart Foundation health research screenings, awarded 30 college scholarships to the children of former NFL Players and granted an additional 112 scholarships to the graduating seniors in the communities former players serve. All together that is more than $3 million directly impacting you and your community!  

Now, I want you to think about how you can serve the former players community during the holiday season. We need your help. Any size donation is important and meaningful. As our player community continues to grow and we want to give you an opportunity to support your fellow former players through upcoming PAF fundraising opportunities. Our Giving Tuesday fundraiser is scheduled to begin December 3rd. An easy to use link will be provided to make giving simple. 

I always appreciate whatever you can do and remember action creates opportunity for others and blessings for you during the holiday season.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Be Brave. Take Action. Ask for Help.

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

As professional athletes, we speak the same language, suffer the same setbacks, have the same fears and need the same kind of help.

During my first few months on the job at the NFLPA, a player called saying he was locked out of his motel room because the bill hadn’t been paid. The motel room was where he had been living.  If that wasn’t enough, it was Christmas Eve and standing there with his kids the presents were locked inside.  Legally separated from his wife, it was his turn to have the kids on Christmas eve. A sad truth of a player just hoping to do his best during a difficult transition.

Fathers, go there with me for a second and imagine how that must feel. Let that settle in. The story did have a happy ending because he was brave, took action and asked for help.

The Professional Athletes Foundation has come a long way over the past two decades.

In that time frame, we’ve supported the Living Heart Foundation’s cardiovascular screening program and have screened over 5,000 former NFL players for research. In 2006, we launched a depression study with the University of Michigan. Over 1,600 former players responded. The results have showed a high prevalence of depression among former players, leading us to a program with the University of Michigan Depression Center and hiring the first social worker at the NFLPA, Tyrone Allen. I can still hear the players singing ‘You Better Call Tyrone ‘upon his first introduction to the player community.

From there we developed programming which has positively impacted the lives of thousands of former players and their families. Our programs focus on marriage and family, self-help and personal wellness. At our seminars and retreats we come together, share our stories of overcoming difficult situations and cry together as a family, a fraternity of players, if you will. We all have so much in common.

The PAF has provided assistance and support services to more than 5,000 former players and their families, and we can help create stability in your life. 2019 looks to be another record year, as we are providing much needed assistance and support to more than 450 players.  From Tyrone, Caryl, Leslie, Laura and me, we are the Professional Athletes Foundation. Action creates opportunity and help is just a phone call away.  If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask.  You are not alone. Be brave and take action!

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Your Actions Will Create Untold Opportunity

Listening is one of the most important things we can do to bond with each other as former players. The best way I can help that bonding process is to makesure you have a voice. And that your voice represents and tells a story outside and beyond football. That your voice has power and purpose and that living a life of purpose and fulfillment is a personal goal. 

During every stage of life, you need direction and good advice. You may need to model your life after someone or seek out a mentor, someone who shares a similar vision. 

You’ve worked hard to earn the status of NFL player, but if you haven’t engaged the opportunities created for former players, then you’re missing out on a chance to do better. 

As part of the NFLPA Former Players membership there is a multitude of resources available to help you. The Former Player Services Department is fully staffed to help guide you along the way. Don’t miss the great discounts and definitely take advantage of the opportunities to connect with other former players in your local community

The Players Trust powered by the NFLPA for qualified players provides a wealth of educational opportunities and programs to evaluate your complete health.  And the Professional Athletes Foundation (PAF) at the NFLPA is ready to help with financial assistance and emotional support where there is a need. 

Don’t take your former player status for granted. Engage to get the full benefit.Let the NFLPA provide recommendation and direction related to the things that impact your life. 

Your voice means a lot to me. Your story is critical to your success. And your action will create untold opportunity! 

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

In One Day, I’m Feeling 10 Years Younger

You’re never too old to have fun. And with the anticipation of the NFL season just around the corner, I needed my fix of fun. I needed to see some football. The AFL, Arena Football League, would have to do. 

Yes, I went to my first AFL game and, wow, what a surprise it was. I took my whole family. With a 21-year-old and two teenagers I didn’t really know what to expect. They only understand NFL football and NFL rules. I was fielding questions like… Do they wear uniforms? Helmets?…etc. 

On this day, the home team was the Atlantic City Blackjacks. (Atlantic City is a town my kids know well. We’ve gone to “AC” every summer for years.) They threw me one more question, So…where’s the BIG stadium? Quick on my feet, I said, The teams play right on ‘The Boardwalk’. My joke got a laugh… I’m funny after all. Anyway, I survived the lead up. 

Inside the Boardwalk Arena was a spectacle of delight: talented players, fast action and the most entertaining football experience I’ve had in a long time! T-shirts and hotdogs were being thrown into the stands….and I love hotdogs! Hotdogs flying is like a dream come true! 

Then it happened. I unknowingly let my guard down. I cheered loud for the Blackjacks. We caught four t-shirts and my son caught a hotdog. He even gave me a bite, yum.

I cheered. I yelled. I laughed with my kids. I laughed at the other fans going nuts. I was silly, not old and guarded. To make my point, life is hard. But don’t make it harder than it has to be by always being so serious. 

Action Creates Opportunity. Deciding to go all in on the fun was ‘taking action’. It was an easy action to take. The opportunity my action afforded was one of my best days of 2019, an unforgettable memory with my family. Just enjoying my wife and kids. Definitely not too old or too serious to have fun.

That trip to Atlantic City just made me 10 years younger. I can’t wait until next year. GO BLACKJACKS!!

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Former NFL Players, We Need Your Help

Andre Collins
Write caption…

I can’t believe summer is just around the corner. So, if you’re anything like me, it’s time to get focused on getting your beach body ready. 

I keep telling my kids this is the year I take my shirt off at the beach and show my “guns”; that’s biceps for the politically correct. Yet, my kids kindly reply “Dad showing your gut is “not a thing”. Heartbroken, I feel they could have put it more mildly and said your stomach’s not ready.

But being in good shape, especially as a former player, isn’t always about what we can see, when the shirt is on, or when we’re flashing the guns. No, we need to make sure we’re keeping on top of our health, both mental and physical!

One thing I know is the Football Players Health Study (FPHS) at Harvard IS READY to help us understand health and the conditions unique to football players. If you’re a former NFL player participating in this study is a must.

Read up on the significance of the study below.

The Football Players Health Study(FPHS) says, “…study is working on prevention, diagnostics, and treatment strategies for the most common and severe conditions affecting professional football players. We are focused on the integrated health of football players, not solely one concern or condition. Our work is on the cutting edge, pushing innovative ideas forward and turning discovery into therapy. In addition, the Study is working to understand the legal and ethical issues that may promote or impede player well-being and developing responsive recommendations to resolve them. In order to determine what these issues are and what is important to former players, we are gathering input and listening to them. 

FPHS also says, “We are the largest study to date of living former players, with over 4,000 participants as of May 2019. We are a comprehensive study that is examining all health concerns – in essence, becoming the “home” study for all former players. We are working to use the collective knowledge of former players and scientists, and to translate this into action, which will lead to improving the quality of life for football players. The Study is player-led and player-supported, and we intend to share results and new discoveries with you, the former players. We are not directed by any external agencies, and as a university we maintain independence and report the facts. We listen to former players and incorporate their input”

As a Player Advisor for the Football Players Health Study at Harvard University, I know this study is different. It’s extremely important that you participate in this research to improve the health and wellbeing of former NFL players. This study is led by players and focused on finding answers.

I really need your help.

Click here or call the team directly at 617-432-5000 to join the Study.

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Former NFL Players, We Need Your Help

I can’t believe summer is just around the corner. So, if you’re anything like me, it’s time to get focused on getting your beach body ready. 

I keep telling my kids this is the year I take my shirt off at the beach and show my “guns”; that’s biceps for the politically correct. Yet, my kids kindly reply “Dad showing your gut is “not a thing”. Heartbroken, I feel they could have put it more mildly and said your stomach’s not ready.

But being in good shape, especially as a former player, isn’t always about what we can see, when the shirt is on, or when we’re flashing the guns. No, we need to make sure we’re keeping on top of our health, both mental and physical!

One thing I know is the Football Players Health Study (FPHS) at Harvard IS READY to help us understand health and the conditions unique to football players. If you’re a former NFL player participating in this study is a must.

Read up on the significance of the study below.

The Football Players Health Study(FPHS) says, “…study is working on prevention, diagnostics, and treatment strategies for the most common and severe conditions affecting professional football players. We are focused on the integrated health of football players, not solely one concern or condition. Our work is on the cutting edge, pushing innovative ideas forward and turning discovery into therapy. In addition, the Study is working to understand the legal and ethical issues that may promote or impede player well-being and developing responsive recommendations to resolve them. In order to determine what these issues are and what is important to former players, we are gathering input and listening to them. 

FPHS also says, “We are the largest study to date of living former players, with over 4,000 participants as of May 2019. We are a comprehensive study that is examining all health concerns – in essence, becoming the “home” study for all former players. We are working to use the collective knowledge of former players and scientists, and to translate this into action, which will lead to improving the quality of life for football players. The Study is player-led and player-supported, and we intend to share results and new discoveries with you, the former players. We are not directed by any external agencies, and as a university we maintain independence and report the facts. We listen to former players and incorporate their input”

As a Player Advisor for the Football Players Health Study at Harvard University, I know this study is different. It’s extremely important that you participate in this research to improve the health and wellbeing of former NFL players. This study is led by players and focused on finding answers.

I really need your help.

Click here or call the team directly at 617-432-5000 to join the Study.

Understand How to Work Smart

Flowers are in bloom and a new season awaits our ambitions. Last week I sat down for a message about leadership, but it ended up being more about mental health, taking care of self and emotional well-being.

You know what it’s like at some point in your life to be number one. Recently, I had the pleasure to visit the top ranked hospital in America, the Mayo Clinic. I traveled there with a group of healthcare professionals to learn about the “Mayo Way” of doings things. Mayo Clinic is a massive operation, with revenues that exceed $12 billion a year. As complex as the hospital business is, for Mayo, being top ranked boils down to a few things we all can apply to how we live, work and care for each other in our player community. 

When it comes to working together and caring for each other, first identify the truth.Not just your truth, but a common or mutual truth that everyone can agree on; if not, then it’s difficult to identify problems, and even more difficult to move on to solutions and resolutions.  

Understand how to work smart. Our bodies are not machines. Bad days lead to eventual burn out. Emotional and physical fatigue will result in decreased effectiveness and productivity. Workload, organizational culture and work-life balance can leave us feeling run down on the job. We can’t just quit and walk away. No, we have to take periods of rest to stay focused and productive. Periods of work stress are opportunities to grow when we add rest and recovery into the equation. 

Job satisfaction has everything to do with understanding purposeand accepting that you can only control and make decisions on things deemed your responsibility, based on the organization’s structure. Nonetheless, master the environment that surrounds you and build positive relationships. And lastly allow yourself, right now at this moment, to accept where you are. Self-acceptance means that you are happy with who and what you are;it does not mean give up your goals or pursuit of a raise or promotion. Grow in that space and create opportunity. 

Being mindful and having harmony in the workplace are core values for the Professional Athletes Foundation. Taking care of your mental health is an opportunity and cause for action

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

A Gateway to Responsibility

Today I’m remembering my time with the Ransom sisters. Ruth and Nettie, both so wise and loving. They were two elderly sisters that lived across the street from my parent’s house in Cinnaminson. Doing yard work for the sisters was a ‘lesson in courage’, a ‘rite of passage’ and the ‘gateway to responsibility’ for me and my brothers.

Ruth and Nettie lived in a small green house. As a small boy, I didn’t go there much. But I do remember on Halloween receiving the Ransom’s much anticipated obligatory apple, hitting the bottom of my candy bag like a yummy brick.

Their yard was big, always tidy and perfect on the corner of S. Read and Rowland. Having been neighbors long before I was born, my father used to cut their grass.When my brother Tony was old enough he mowed, then Bill and then me.

I remember the quiet day my mother told me that it was now my turn.Argh! There were a thousand things to do on a Saturday in Jersey and mowing the Ransom’s yard was one thousand and one on that list. On top of that, my mom’s last words as I was pressed out the door, “don’t you dare charge.” 

They were elderly, gray, mysterious, sturdy and small, but intimidating for a 12-year-old boy. All the kids in the neighborhood thought they were twins. They weren’t, yet still a double billing of something strange and unknown.

Ruth and Nettie were meticulous. The grass had to be a certain way. Cut against the grain on the slope, then mow downhill along the driveway. This grass was trained, and any mistakes were noticeable. Follow orders and do the job right. It was my first taste of hard work.

At the end of the job I was invited inside. The living room was perfectly neat.  A cold drink and a chat always followed. Ruth said, “stand tall, be proud of your height, and how are your grades?” 

And then it happed, out of her purse she offered $3.50. I felt good. I had done something. It was my first memory of feeling like a man, feeling like my dad, feeling like I worked and liking what getting paid felt like.I went back again and again, eager for the chance to get inside, sit on that old chair, hear their stories and learn. That feeling still lives in me today…My mom knew best.

Take a moment and remember occasions that transformed you, and realize opportunities for change still exist. 

Action Creates Opportunity,

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Always Doing More for Former Players

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Happy February and now that the Super Bowl has passed, I hope you were able to survive your first Sunday of the year without pro football. For the PAF, February also brings a close to the first half of our fundraising season. I want to thank everyone, especially the former players, that gave during the “Giving Tuesday” campaign, contributed to our annual Smocks and Jocks fundraiser and played our Pick ’em Charity Challenge app during the Super Bowl. Your contributions allow us to make life changing grants to former NFL players and their families. 

In 2018 we granted more than $2 million to 475 former players. Together with 2017 grants and money spent on programs like The Living Heart Foundation, the PAF spent more than $5 million dollars the past two years impacting more than 1,500 former players.

We will always do our best for you.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@yourpaf) to keep up on all of the opportunities to engage with us throughout the year. Remember Action Creates Opportunity!

Sincerely,

Andre Collins

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999


Get quiet and make better decisions

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

As I watch this year’s playoffs, it reminds me that anything is possible as teams battle on the field. The ups and downs with every snap are almost too much to bear.  I won’t reveal who I root for, but I get excited as a fan and I’m hopeful every time my team takes the field. Watching the focus, determination and motivation it takes to compete brings great joy if things go my team’s way.

But sometimes things don’t go my team’s way.

And in my personal life things don’t always go my way either. There is no perfect path to achieving goals.Sometimes I lose even when I make great decisions and do great things. Fighting to beat the odds and overcoming setbacks to reach goals at work for myself and at home for my family is normal.

I do know the lessons we learned as teammates are valuable.

How do I react after a setback? How do I show up at work after a day when everything went wrong!!?

Sometimes it means slowing down and turning down the noise.I get quiet and still. But I won’t punish myself. I stop short of replaying all the poor decisions in my head. If an apology is in order I simply say sorry and move on. If I need to do better, I figure out how to give more.

Get quiet and make better decisions for a better quality of life.  

If you’re ever in this situation, I know you’ll thrive. I know your ideas in the aftermath will be fresh and new. You’re alive, creative, smart and capable.  Believe in yourself. You’re talented beyond measure. Tap into the strengths that allowed you to be the best at your sport. Feel the happiness that comes with reaching and stretching higher.

Together we will celebrate the enthusiasm you have to overpower the inconceivable. I’ll say it again we know how far we’ve come.

Continue to be the author of your life and block negative thoughts that cycle through your mind. Living one moment at a time can solve a multitude of disputes. You already have the tools, just chip away.

Make a way today. The gateway to your best life is waiting

Action creates opportunity.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Embrace the hustle of making plans that celebrate life.

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Can it really be December already? Another Thanksgiving come and gone. Another holiday season in full swing with Christmas over the hills and through the woods. I insist if you don’t force yourself to stop and look around you’ll miss it. See the lights of the season that represent sharing, giving and family. Hear kids laughing and hoping out loud at the anticipation of toys and time off. Embrace the hustle of making plans that celebrate life.

Take this opportunity to breathe in the chill of the December air. Allow yourself time to slow down just a bit, to be present with your surroundings and the people or strangers that come in and out of your life every day. Be focused on the joy they bring you and be an ‘awareness giver’ and trust that a smile or helping hand will make all the difference in the world. This holiday season recognize those moments and be present.

Mindfulness is the state of being aware, acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings and thoughts. A core principle of mindfulness thinking is being in the moment.

A wakefulness and understanding of who you are and where you stand undoubtedly will create an opportunity to be a better person. Your mental wellbeing is important and action creates opportunity. So, take inventory on self; pause and feel the energy around you.

From all of us at the PAF, wishing you a joy filled holiday season!

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

 

Giving Tuesday is Right Around the Corner

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

The snow is starting to fall here in Washington, DC, and that means so many different things.  The holiday season is going to come and go way too quickly, and we are going to be staring 2019 right in the face.  But it also means there is a great opportunity to take action just a few weeks away.

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving is known as Giving Tuesday, and it’s an opportunity for all of us to cut through the noise around Black Friday and Cyber Monday and Doorbusters and Holiday Sales.  It’s an opportunity for you to support your fellow former players, or former players and their families who you serve in a real, impactful way.

For over 28 years, the PAF has been there for thousands of former players and their families, helping them with adversity to the tune of over $21 million.  This year alone, our team has worked with over 500 players.  We wouldn’t be able to make the type of positive impact on these families if it weren’t for the community of caring people who make up and support our fraternity of former players.

Support the PAF This Giving Tuesday

What better way to show your support than to participate in Giving Tuesday and take action.  You are providing the opportunities our guys need when they need help the most.  We’re thankful for your support.  

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones,

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

 

The Silent Killer is Nothing to Leave to Chance.

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

I’m only human. So, after several months of zeroing in on my workouts and really getting after it, I got fit and strong. The mistake I made was looking in the mirror and liking too much the results of my efforts. I celebrated my achievement by having a donut because I earned it. Next was the occasional Whopper with cheese, every now and then won’t hurt…right? After all, I look great and I’ve worked so hard.

You can write the next line. How did this happen? I’m fat again!!

As players, you all understand it requires a concentrated effort to stay on top of your game or, in this case, to keep a flat stomach. You must do your best to count those calories and make tough decisions in the moment. Pay attention to your cholesterol levels and your health scores. And most importantly, pay attention to the score that calculates your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. The silent killer, heart disease, is nothing to leave to chance.

Here are 10 possible signs of heart disease to be aware of:

  • Chest Pain or Pain in Upper Extremities
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Edema, commonly known as swelling
  • Coughing and Wheezing
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • A Family History of Heart Disease
  • High Cholesterol or High Blood Pressure

 

The PAF will host The Living Heart Foundation’s next heart and health evaluation in HOUSTON.
SATURDAY | OCTOBER 20, 2018 at BAYLOR ST. LUKE’S MEDICAL CENTER
(Spouses and significant others are encouraged to be evaluated also)

Take advantage of this opportunity by acting today. Call 800.372.2000 ask for me at ext.162

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Weeds Happen Again and Again

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Summer is a nice break from my normal routine. For me it brings a little extra sleep, fun at the beach and saying yes to a dessert or two. Yes, relief from the grind of kids at school and the dress down policy at work is a blessing.

Summer is also the time of weeds. This past weekend was a typical hell, hot and humid, summer weekend in DC. Dressed in full yard work gear; sweat pants, sweat jacket and old sneakers I took to the yard to pull pesky weeds. I’m particularly proud of the patio I built with my bare hands last summer. So, feel my rage when weeds and grass grow up through the stones.

The last time I pulled those weeds, not long ago, I was proud of myself. I got them all and gave myself a pat on the back. Celebrate! What an accomplishment. Take a break!

But weeds happen again and again and life cycles the same way, so stay steady.

The return of crab grass is a reminder that there will always be work and times when we must labor a bit more and struggle with things we don’t like to do. Life in fact requires attention to detail.

Taking a breather is good, but now that you are recharged, know that action creates opportunity. So get those kids off to school…but rest assured, the holiday season is just around the corner.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Tough days bruise, but people survive

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

What a joy, when my son Chet plays a great game! Ah, that’s my boy!!Then again, there’s probably nothing worse in all of sports than watching my son pitch a tough inning or miss a few easy layups on the basketball court. I know, without a doubt, the sports gods can be cruel. Even with practice and preparation, somehow the ‘sporting god of adversity and humility’ finds his way to the action.

As a parent, nothing pains me more than seeing my kids struggle. It hurts to watch those humbling moments that competing in sports can create. Watching those life lessons unfold right before my eyes is all too familiar because I’ve had my shot blocked, struck out and fumbled the ball many times. I know how that feels. I know how that stuck in my head. I know that embarrassment. Therefore, I know my son’s pain. I want to hug him, demand a do-over or take on some of those other kids myself.

But let me stop. What in the world is driving my need to make his experience perfect? Why should I care so much if he fails?

I tried. I failed. I lived. I know those tough days made me better. Tough days bruise, but people survive. I had to stop myself from managing every second of Chet’s sports life. Which meant I categorically needed to shut up.

I stopped giving tips and advice right before and right after games. I think about my own loving father, who didn’t come to every game like parents do today. That wasn’t a thing back then in the 70’s. When I had a bad game, I walked that mile home alone, no parents, with my friends laughing a little about other stuff. I knew I didn’t play great but I worked those feelings out in my head without my father’s consoling. I survived and somewhere in that process I developed a resiliency and spirit to get better, to do better and to try again.

I have knowledge about competing and preparation. I’ll find appropriate times to share good advice with him.

For now, I give him his space to process. I realize he needs the space to breathe and mourn a poor performance and to feel good about himself when he plays well. He must develop his own coping skills. He’s a boy becoming a man through the competition of sport.

I’m still learning new things about fatherhood and glad I could realize this is my son’s chance to grow.

Action Creates Opportunity. Let your ability to pull back, listen and be still create an opportunity for your kids to experience life and become the people they were meant to be.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

 

My Own Standards: My Life Index

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Just had another birthday. I may be getting older, but I’m good. I’m feeling strong and my transition from football is complete. I have clear goals on how I want the next few years to look.  My oldest is now in college and my two kids at home are doing everything right. Happy wife, happy life…and I live in a community that I love. I have a career and time to volunteer. A roof over my head and food to keep me nourished. I’m grateful, but getting here required mistakes.

Today I stay clear-headed and focused because there’s so much to pray about and so much to remind me of how easy it is to get off course.

My elderly friend, who I love dearly because I cherish his journey, moans about his money. He never has enough and always comes up short. Asking for help again just to survive. Always saying this is the last time. It will never happen again.

I’m afraid to become him.

It would be all too easy to become him if you don’t place a true value on the things you cherish in your life.  It’s easy to become like him if you buy all that you want and take every trip you desire…purchasing without pause, purchasing because you want, never understanding need. Self -denial is difficult, after all we’re human.  But if you would only just wait a bit, the opportunity to grow in wisdom outweighs the present thrill.

I have my own kind of standard. Not in the traditional sense, but in my own way of valuing what is important. I call it the ‘MY LIFE INDEX’.  Rule #1…I won’t let anyone else define what’s valuable to me. I’ll go wrong comparing myself to others or even the reckless version of my younger self.

I have my own needs that must get met and I prioritize what’s important for me and my family. I like my old SUV and keeping it simple with my clothes. The kids hate both, but I don’t care!

I won’t pay someone to do things I can do myself. Nor do I let anyone make me feel a certain way about how I live and what I choose to make essential. What I can live with and live without is really my business. No one has the right to care what value I place on things.

In the ‘MY LIFE INDEX’, rule #2 is Spend less than you make and be sure to save because tough times are undeniable. Stay ready. Don’t kid yourself. Things get tight for everyone in one way or another.

When will you figure it out 40, 50… 70?

My problems are different than your problems and his problems are different than mine, but the pain of coming up short is familiar. What does the ‘MY LIFE INDEX’ look like for you? Are bills getting paid? Do you have money left over?  Are you caring too much about what others think?

Turn in and find the strength to run your own race. Action Creates Opportunity for you to live your best worry-free life.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

 

Let’s Guide One Another

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Several years ago, I reflected upon the NFL Draft, then taking place in Chicago.  Hearing the names of several former players’ sons this past weekend in the 2018 NFL Draft, I was reminded of a feeling I had a few years back.  One that I expressed in this very space.

After digging through the archives, I found this gem and wanted to share it again as, often is the case, good advice seems relevant even as time passes.

I hope you enjoy…

Don’t you just love spring time?  So far, the season is off to a great start here in Washington, DC. Flowers are in bloom with beautiful variations of yellow, pink and white.  The grass is a rich green and the sky a bold blue. A new season awaits our ambitions.

No one felt this more than the young men who were lucky enough to hear their names called at the NFL Draft in Chicago.  As I was watching, I couldn’t help reminiscing about my own personal football journey. The highs. The lows. The victories and the challenges.  And if I knew then what I know now, oh, how much I would have done differently.

But there is a bit of beauty in the ebbs and flows of my past.  I now have the opportunity to put those first hand lessons to good use as I help guide my own children on their journeys.

And I’m not alone in this mindset.  Several former players heard their sons’ names called this weekend during the Draft.  What a wonderful opportunity we have to guide our sons first hand through the game and beyond.  Furthermore, what a wonderful realization for both generations of these players, father and son alike, this past weekend.

We all know how much time and effort goes into playing and then transitioning to a life after football. Let’s make sure we are doing enough to guide each other to the resources that can make the decision process on a number of things a bit easier.

Like a father guides his son, let’s guide one another.  Take action and connect to the resources at yourpaf.com for clarity when it comes to improving the quality of your life. Your opportunities await.

I can’t get over how time flies, but I promise it gets better. Enjoy each and every moment!

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Our Team is Here for You

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Today I ’d like to take more time to introduce the PAF team. Just like the teams you played on, everyone on the PAF team has a job to do. With many years of experience, we are prepared to serve your greatest hardships. Our website, YourPAF, will have many of the answers to your questions, but the PAF team is also available to help you evaluate your true needs. The team is Laura, Leslie, Caryl, Tyrone and me, Andre. I’m so proud of the work they put in for 2017, helping 488 players and their families. There is no trophy at the end of the year for this team, but you will tell by their enthusiasm helping others is the reward.

Here is a short video to help you get to know the PAF team better.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

We Are a Reflection of Your Success

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

This month I want to take some time to express how excited I am for you and what you do next in life. How well you adjust during life’s transitions directly impacts you and your family. It impacts your family’s future and how you measure success and happiness. The Professional Athletes Foundation (PAF) for decades has been providing support for Former NFL Players as they leave the game and face difficult life situations.  And make no mistake about it, we are only a reflection of your success. We may provide assistance, but it is really your actions that create great and exciting opportunities.

The PAF is the NFLPA’s foundation, and has been operating for 28 years. The NFLPA provides financial assistance to former players through the Professional Athletes Foundation.

Our housing relief efforts have kept thousands of players and their families in their homes.

We provide support for former player funerals, burials and support for the widows of former players during this most difficult life transition.

We are also responsible for executing more than 5000 cardiovascular screenings for former players as well as substance abuse treatment, physical therapy, emotional therapy, hearing tests and sleep evaluations.

Did you know the PAF was the first to create an open environment for players to share their difficult life stories and then heal together by talking honestly about their shared common experiences?

In 2017 the PAF assisted 488 former players through many difficult situations. 1.76 million dollars was awarded in financial assistance. 45% of those payments went toward mortgage and rent assistance.  215 players received emergency assistance during Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

But it’s not about how much money is spent or how many players are helped. It’s the effect and impact these grants have in keeping families together and giving players and their families hope that they can find stability after a tough period.

I always say, you’re in your own race. Strive to get better. Find your voice. Playing pro football is a tremendous accomplishment. Claim it!

Continue to show the world the best version of you, let what you learned in football provide comfort that you are smart and a resilient learner.

Andre Collins

asdf

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

The Weekends Are Not for Me

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

February already! I can barely keep up.

Dads, we have a big job this month with our significant others or spouses and kids expecting us to create a special moment marked with love. Good luck!

But what about me? It’s hard not to sometimes think about myself.

I look forward to every weekend, but as a father I consistently realize the weekends are not for me. I have visions of catching up on yard work or odd jobs around the house. A jog, a haircut and a good nap. But somehow the weekend never quite measures up to my dreams. Instead I’m in the car 24 hours straight.

My wife forgets how to drive on the weekends and I become the family UBER.

A trip downtown to the hair salon, a ballet performance for Karis, then I finish with a basketball game for Chet.  I can almost feel my rear end hitting the couch when I hear those words from my wife’s mouth, “Hey parents how about a bite to eat with the boys?” Argh…Then it goes on a bit longer. More of the same on Sunday.

But at this stage of my life, I can’t imagine my weekends any other way. I have tremendous sympathy for my father.  He’s 88 now and I know accurately how he felt.

How did he do it day after day? Drive after drive. One more trip to the store. One more ride to practice and another trip to the mall.

I love my dad for his commitment, teaching me with his actions. Like so many of our dad’s quietly teaching us this important part about being a father.

Your family has a rhythm; a strong, regular, repeated pattern. You are the bass. The wheels your family rolls on.

Being a dad is important. You must recognize what your family needs and what you can give in your own way.

For a father there is no greater joy than to see his family thriving and his children doing their best and seeking truth and wisdom.

Sometimes driving them around is not just driving them around. It may be that you’re showing them you love and care, and more importantly, when their time comes, you’re showing them HOW to love and care for the families they make for themselves.

Speaking of showing them the way…flowers, chocolates and a few scented candles. Get to creating that special moment for the one you love the most!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Andre Collins

asdf

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Live Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

I feel like I’m enjoying this life. I’m having a good time and I like a good laugh. But am I really living?

I don’t take a lot of chances. I’m low risk and careful. Sometimes that keeps me from being the most I can be. I’m not talking about dodging trains, skydiving or body surfing with sharks. I won’t risk my life, but in 2018 I want to do things differently and dare to live.

I mostly say ‘no’. But in 2018 I will say yes to things I normally avoid. Situations I don’t engage because it takes more effort and it’s outside of my comfort zone.

Stretching myself and adventurousness is different than acting crazy. I’m not suggesting anyone should act up. But don’t plan for every second or count down the minutes to when you can get back on the couch. Just see where the day takes you.

This is not professional development. This is personal development. And this year I’m giving ‘Safe Andre’ permission to be adventurous. That is my desired change.

Take the dare with me to live outside of your comfort zone and make a positive change.

Here are some tips to help you make that change.

Surround yourself with a few good people. Who in your wide circle of friends and acquaintances is living or participating in your desired goal or activity? Identify one or two people, ask for their support and tag along. They can help you change, be open and listen. You’ve heard this before change doesn’t happen alone

Never get tired of evaluating who you are. Take inventory.  Don’t focus on what needs to improve, but rather focus on where you are in life. Focus on what you can offer and build on it.

Have a plan. How much can you change before March 1st or April 1st? When it starts to warm up outside you don’t want old bad habits to warm up too. Organize that time in week long increments. Sunday is always a good day to reflect and evaluate progress and your feeling of achievement.

No plan is exact. Be willing to adjust if your desired result is not happening.

Forget about resolutions of years past. Today is the day. Live in the present. Start small. Don’t be nervous. Just be you. This is your time to reset your pathways.

You can apply this strategy to most things. Decide how this approach to change can benefit you. You don’t have to be perfect in the new year.

You just need to try to be the best version of you.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Looking Back on Looking Back

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

What follows is one of my first posts on YourPAF.  At the end of the year, I take some time to reflect on the year that has passed.  I wanted to repost this entry, as it seems to be relevant each year in the final few weeks.  I look forward to looking forward come the start of 2018…

Do you ever sit and think about all the things you could have done differently. Things that would make life a little sweeter now? When do I get to win in this life? When am I going to break free? It’s a tough place to be emotionally, but it’s also human nature to reflect and look back on where we’ve been. It’s easy to dwell on poor decisions of the past. But it’s never too late to win in this life.

Constantly looking back at what could have been is a dangerous practice that blocks personal growth and development. Let today be the start to making an ‘excellent’ ending.

Today is the key word here. Beyond lessons learned, digging up the old emotions connected to failure can’t help us today. Live in the present. No matter how hurtful the past has been, stop yourself from the unproductive exercise of refusing to turn the page. Take personal inventory, in this present moment, of where you are physically, emotionally, financially and psychologically. Be realistic in your assessment.

You get to write your own ending, but successfully reaching a goal takes time, patience and discipline. Discipline…that’s a word you know well. You have become a master of discipline. Just get started. Do what you can right now with the knowledge and resources you have. Quietly, over time, you will see a difference. Trust me, I’ve wasted more time than anyone. My personal rut has been well defined over the years, back and forth, same old rut. Getting better is about getting focused and making good decisions, not bad decisions that will impact your later years.

Make life simple. Figure out what’s most important in your life. Focus on the four or five good things that really matter, and build the core of your time and existence around those fundamental things first.

Everything in your life should be up for review. It doesn’t matter what age you are. With small changes you will gain confidence, and bigger changes will naturally follow.

  1. Take inventory on what’s important, who’s important and who you want to become. Think about what’s keeping you in the rut and from becoming the person you want to be.
  2. Start simple. What can I change today? The small victories will help you gain confidence.
  3. Don’t be scared. The worst thing that can happen is you stay the same. With any effort staying the same is not possible

Ready…Set…Go. Action Creates the Opportunity.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Giving Thanks for My Best Friend

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Thanksgiving again! I love the holiday season. This year I have so much to be thankful for, but I will say first and foremost that I am most thankful for my wife. Over the years we have grown. And more importantly we have grown up.

It’s Sunday night and I’m sitting around. There’s folded laundry on a chair, blankets tossed on the sofa, and a pair of muddy shoes by the door. I said to my wife “which one of your friends could come in this house right now, plop down, grab a blanket and be comfortable.

She paused for a second and said, “Well you’re my best friend… now get under this blanket.” Alright, alright. She didn’t say the get under the blanket part, but she did say I was her best friend. I didn’t make a big deal out of it. However, I did pause and reflect. I must admit my wife is my best friend.

It doesn’t mean I completely enjoy her all the time, but she does represent love and a comfortableness that is important for living a high-quality life. One can’t be on and entertaining all the time. At some point in the day there should be time to be ourselves. She is my safe zone. She is incredibly smart. Yet, she makes me laugh when she’s explaining football; telling a great lie about how much she knows.

Seriously, what have I done to deserve this great honor of best friend. It kind of seems greater than the honor of being a husband. I’m not perfect but I’m better for her today than I was for her in the past. That is the growth. This is Andre 2.0.

I try hard to make things easy for her. I want to clean the kitchen and have solutions to our problems. I want her to trust me.  And my preferred destination is always home.

I do things she likes to do. I try new restaurants for her. Act like I’m amazed by Dr. Oz for her. And completely overdose on reality TV for her. I can’t always think about myself. A best friend can’t sit on the sofa all day Saturday and have a guy’s night out every weekend and expect to wear the king’s crown.

What can you do in your relationship to earn best friend status with your significant other or spouse. Healthy relationships are critical to your overall health. Here are some professional tips. I will also slip in a few of my own. Let’s see if you can tell which ones are mine. First person that replies to andre.collins@nflpa.com with the correct three tips that are ‘Andre Collins tips’ will receive a $150 gift card that might help in earning you best friend status.

  • Don’t win every argument
  • Listen with your ears and eyes, look at your partner when you’re listening
  • Eat fancy cheese on potato chips together
  • Take responsibility for your faults and try to improve
  • Do things together that your partner likes
  • Overdose on Reality TV
  • Don’t let your past ruin the present

Action Creates an Opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. Happy Thanksgiving!

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Setbacks, Fears and Asking for Help

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

I’m on a plane headed to London for an international conference on player care services. Who would have thought so many years ago that we would be at this point right now, an international conference on player care? As professional athletes, we speak the same language, suffer the same setbacks, have the same fears and need the same kind of help.

During my first few months on the job at the NFLPA, a player called saying he was locked out of his motel room because the bill hadn’t been paid. The motel room was where he had been living.  If that wasn’t enough, it was Christmas Eve and standing there with his kids the presents were locked inside.  Legally separated from his wife, it was his turn to have the kids on Christmas eve. A sad truth of a player just hoping to do his best during a difficult transition. Fathers, go there with me for a second and imagine how that must feel. Let that settle in. The story did have a happy ending because he was brave, took action and asked for help.

The Professional Athletes Foundation has come a long way over the past 15 years. In that time frame, we’ve supported the Living Heart Foundation’s cardiovascular screening program and have screened over 5,000 former NFL players for research. In 2006, we launched a depression study with the University of Michigan. Over 1,600 former players responded. The results have showed a high prevalence of depression among former players, leading us to a program with the University of Michigan Depression Center and hiring the first social worker at the NFLPA, Tyrone Allen. I can still hear the players singing ‘You Better Call Tyrone ‘upon his first introduction to the player community.

From there we developed programming which has evolved into our current YOU.0 program. The program focuses on marriage and family, self-help and personal wellness. At the YOU.0 seminars we come together, share our stories of overcoming difficult situations and cry together as a family, a fraternity of players, if you will. We all have so much in common.

The PAF has provided assistance and support services to more than 3,000 former players and their families, and we can help create stability in your life. 2017 has been another record year, as we are providing much needed assistance and support to more than 460 players.  From Tyrone, Caryl, Leslie and me, we are the Professional Athletes Foundation. Action creates opportunity and help is just a phone call away.  If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask.  You are not alone. Be brave and take action!

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Bad Choices Today Make Better Ones Tomorrow

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Mistakes come with a feeling of guilt and embarrassment; a sense that you didn’t live up to expectations.

I do a great job not talking about my past mistakes, mainly because I don’t think it makes for good conversation and, more importantly, I’m concerned with focusing on the person I want to be. I want to grow and get better. The less I talk about where I’ve been the faster I get where I’m going.

I analyze everything, so I had to learn not to dwell on my past mistakes. Putting things behind me takes effort. I’ve learned to follow a process that allows me to understand my emotions and take actions to move on.

First, check your emotions and evaluate your feelings. Identify where those emotions are coming from. Why do you feel quilt or regret? Were your actions out of character? Were you trying to please someone? Did you let a group of people down? Are your feelings motivated by fear? Unchecked emotions can wear you down. Identifying where the worry is coming from and who you disappointed is the first step to moving on.

Next assess how this will impact you personally. Will you lose your job, money or even your freedom? Most things don’t rise to that level, but if it does just know you can overcome anything.

Acknowledge your actions. You’re not expected to make mistakes when given a responsibility. Yet, we do make mistakes. It happens.  But, making excuses makes the situation worse. Admit to yourself where things went wrong.  Did you gather enough information? Did you rely on someone’s help?  Did you exercise patience? If the mistake falls squarely on you, just own it. Say “I did it”. And if you need to say you’re sorry, sincerely apologize.

If you don’t need to apologize to anyone else, apologize to yourself. Maybe apologize to your present-day self for the mistakes made by a younger less wise self. Then move on.

Look for a “do-over”. Work to make it up to yourself. Try to minimize the damage or fix the mistake. Earn respect. Regain self- worth, self- dignity and integrity. Get back out there to earn the coach’s trust. Life is no different, you want to be trustworthy and recognized as someone with integrity.

Who you are now is not who you were then, and bad choices today can be better choices tomorrow. Don’t put setbacks in your suitcase of life, but do catalog and learn from the experience. The apology is key. That is the closure. There may be forthcoming consequences, but for your heart saying I’m sorry is powerful and sufficient.

Make amends without expecting a pat on the back. Just do what is required and do it with genuineness. Taking action creates an opportunity for healing, the beginning of a comeback and befitting the next generation of you.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Run Your Own Race

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

I’m constantly measuring where I am. Am I doing enough at work? Am I giving enough at home? Endlessly taking inventory on how I feel.  Is my money good? Is my relationship where I want it to be? Daydreams of chasing riches full speed ahead, thinking If I’m lucky I will hit the lottery. Is money able to fix all the poor decisions people make over a lifetime?

My mind is playing tricks on me!

Stopping myself, I realize that’s probably not a good place to be in my head. I sound so crazy trying to turn all of those thoughts and questions into sense. Truth is I don’t know what the future holds, so no need to worry today about things I can’t predict. Nor should I fear things that may never happen.

There is an agitation and sadness that comes on us when we think we just don’t have enough. The right clothes or a shiny car. The sadness comes from chasing these things so hard. Envy has ruined many men and their families. When we’re not satisfied, we start to think everyone else has it better.

How fast I get to peace of mind depends on how fast I can turn inward from the noise and just appreciate my life.

My job is my job. I live where I live, my bills are my bills and I’m on my journey. I can’t mimic someone else’s journey. This is my walk. I run my own race.

We must appreciate where we are in life. Sometimes we make our worst mistakes when we want more. I’m not saying it is wrong to want a better life, but I think we all know when the desire and motivation for more is misguided and ill-advised. But we press on hoping for more when we know all too well the risk involved. It’s been said, better to know what you know than to risk it all on treasures, trouble and the unknown.

Living life is an experience full of uniqueness. Figure out what harmony and success looks like for you. What works for me, almost certainly will not work perfectly for you.

A man lifetimes wiser than me said “Better is one handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit… with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.”

Meaning, sometimes by reaching for more we pull back two fists filled with struggle and aggravation.

Appreciate where you are, get to know yourself and run your own race.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Our Expectations as Former Players

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

For me one of the most gratifying feelings of all time is making my way home on Friday during rush hour. As a commuter, it always comes with a sense of adventure.

I can’t help but look around and think wow! Look at all this excitement and energy. People going from here to there. Some moving slow, even more moving fast. I’m in this whirlwind and I love all the commotion. I like the sense of targeted focus this time of week brings. I love how everyone seems to have someplace to be, a sense of purpose and urgency. It seems deliberate, most likely part of a regular routine. Racing against the clock, racing against yesterday’s pathway home or today’s performance on the job.

As a former player, I’m drawn in and focused on the bustle. Whether you’re on foot or in a car, it symbolizes the chase of an accomplishment for the week. A job well done and a step closer to Friday night. It’s progress and getting to Friday is measurable.

You are accustomed to practices being filmed and judged. That daily judgement or grade has created something in us that expects an accolade, critique or progress.

We carry that expectation into the workplace. Today, we critique and judge our own performance on the job, every meeting, encounter and response. We want to know if we did a good job. Honestly, I wonder if most working people think the way we do.

I cherish the end of the week, not because I hate work, but because I get satisfaction in knowing I got through a week filled with challenges. It’s that moment when we get to the last play on the script at practice and reach for a cold Gatorade before hitting the showers.

And with Father’s Day right around the corner, I’m thinking about all of you. The effort you’re putting in during your transition is remarkable. Keep believing in yourself. Look up and notice the energy around you, especially when you hit the end of the workweek.

The streets are beautifully filled with people, with opportunity. Dive into Father’s Day. You deserve it, but next month I need to see you out there on the grind, working to accomplish and progress each week because developing the Next Generation of You requires action!

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Mental Health Awareness Month

Tyrone-Editorial

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, it got me thinking about how building a healthy you can contribute to wellness in all areas of life. Recently, a player contacted me after his release from a hospital stay, telling me he had nowhere to go. He was honest about his relapse in his behavior and I was able to get him to a safe place while reconnecting him to our available resources.

This helped me realize that change does not happen overnight and it is an ongoing process. I’ve worked with so many of you and your families over my 10 years here at the Profession Athletes Foundation, and I continue to commit myself to helping former players achieve better, more fulfilled lives after football. As I was one of the first staff members hired to understand your behavioral, emotional, and health needs, I’ve gathered the experience necessary to create some of the most influential programs and services that currently help you and your families succeed. Most recently, I am encouraged by your positive feedback of the partnership with the Eisenhower Center, which leads me to believe we are on the right track together.

At the PAF, we realize that your needs change on a continuous basis, so we always strive to create resources that reflect your needs, current needs. Here are a few ways you can take action by exploring the following resources we have available:

  • Cigna EAP counseling program
  • Living Heart Foundation Sleep Apnea program
  • Living Heart Foundation HOPE Obesity program
  • Ear Q Hearing Evaluation

As we move into Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important that you have a solid understanding of yourself, both mental and physical, within your personal relationships and your professional workspace. All of these aspects of your life (which we have resources to address) impact your mental health. A healthy mind leads to a healthy you.

The actions you take today will lead to the opportunities for a better, healthier life tomorrow.

 

Tyrone Allen

PAF Director
Professional Athletes Foundation

Push Past Your Excuses

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

While waiting on the 41 bus in Arlington the other night, I watched a stronger, younger guy run past. My first thought was look at him glide, free of injury and free of pain. I was convinced he was running with such ease because his body never experienced the trauma playing a contact sport at the highest level. I can be cruel sometimes and that probably wasn’t a fair statement.

But running was too easy for him. And I just haven’t felt like that in some time. Forget about the fact that I had on dress shoes, my competitive juices were still flowing. I’m a linebacker. Instinct said chase him. Kind of like how a dog just instinctively chases a mailman, I’m forever chasing a ball carrier.

My mind says I can, but my left ankle sincerely knows better. There was no chance. That young guy was running like Randy Moss going in for another score!

I’m like an old crotchety man. Everything irritates me and I’m cranky — my wife’s too slow at the grocery store, the car in front isn’t pulling off fast enough at a green light — it seems like everyone is just aimlessly wandering around.

But I know I’m better than that. Just because I can’t keep up and things irritate me doesn’t mean I should give up pressing for a quality of life that is supreme. I’m reminded that we must press for a life that is about fitness and health through exercise and emotional well-being.

I can train in a different way. I can still jog, walk, do some weight training and yoga. I can exercise my mind by reading, meditating, mindfulness training and praying; praying might take care of my irritableness. Always going forward without the pressure of ‘making a play’ but with rewarding lifestyle changes that promote the best version of me.

I will focus on getting my ankle better. My aches and pains can’t be an excuse. I can’t retire to that comfortable chair and remote control. Right now, I can’t forget about me! So many things in my life are too important to quit on having a fit mind and body.

The opportunities are abundant, and out there for the taking.  Forget your excuses, it’s time for us to take action.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Don’t Put Things in Your Suitcase of Life

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

As I watched my 14-year-old daughter Karis grow into a thoughtful, determined young woman, I ask myself again where did the time go? I was just holding her in my arms, watching our favorite movie, Daddy Daycare, and playing tea party. Now I’m barely a blip on the radar screen and she’s off to the next thing with her friends.

As a father, have I done enough to connect? Football has been such a central part of my life and a proving ground when it comes to resiliency and having a thick skin. Unlike my son, who I easily connect with over sports, what are my opportunities with Karis? She is a ballerina. Contrary to my affiliation with linebacking, I do know some things about ballet and I’m a huge fan of the performing arts. I think she genuinely understands how impressed I am with her as a ballerina.

Andre Collins, PAF Executive Director

But when do I get to connect on some of the things that a person needs so urgently in this life. When do I get to teach her about being tough, dusting yourself off after setbacks and being able to feel and understand resiliency in real time, with real lessons.

What if she doesn’t play team sports, how do you bond? You must dig for those moments to connect with your daughter and teach what you’ve learned about competing and losing, but not quitting.

These moments in time could be gems to your daughter, but you must be ready, deliberate and prepared.

Be a Dad first. Treat her with respect. Daughters need a father. They don’t need you to be a friend. Silly dancing doesn’t work on a14-year-old. Don’t hang out the car window at school waving all crazy saying, “Hey, daddy’s over here.” She can see the car. It’s embarrassing and it helps solidify the ‘dumb daddy’ or as my wife calls it the ‘donuts for dummies’ stereotype. She already thinks you’re not cool. They have their own ideas about what’s cool and Boy George and Tony Toni Tone aren’t on the list.

Karis is strong and capable. She is smart and resilient. I won’t ‘check out’ as our relationship continues to change and grow. And I won’t get left behind.

Opportunity exists when she asks you for help on homework. Even if you don’t know the answer you can find solutions and encourage her to push forward. The opportunity exists when you witness someone making poor decisions or being a poor sport. Use those moments to share your own brand of wisdom with your daughter.

I tell my daughter, “Don’t put things in your suitcase of life. Don’t carry around that setback, the less than perfect grade or the missed opportunity to dance the lead.” We are only called to do our best. Life is often about feelings, and managing those feelings, which is so important to girls. This practice creates a sense of stability and ensures that life goes on even when things aren’t perfect. You are providing comfort in a different way. You are still dependable with good advice. Life isn’t perfect.

You want your daughter to learn these lessons now on the little things that in the grand scheme of things don’t matter so much. Use positive words. Tell her she is great! There are plenty of people out there that will try to put her down.

Don’t let that suitcase get full! Lugging it around is tiresome.

Keeping an empty suitcase requires toughness and resiliency. You are a master of resiliency, and you are her greatest teacher. Don’t miss a single opportunity to be involved and to let her know that action creates opportunity and she will trust you even more.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Don’t Put Things in Your Suitcase of Life

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

As I watch my 14-year-old daughter Karis grow into a thoughtful, determined young woman, I ask myself again where did the time go? I was just holding her in my arms, watching our favorite movie, Daddy Daycare, and playing tea party. Now I’m barely a blip on the radar screen and she’s off to the next thing with her friends.

As a father, have I done enough to connect? Football has been such a central part of my life and a proving ground when it comes to resiliency and having a thick skin. Unlike my son, who I easily connect with over sports, what are my opportunities with Karis? She is a ballerina. Contrary to my affiliation with linebacking, I do know some things about ballet and I’m a huge fan of the performing arts. I think she genuinely understands how impressed I am with her as a ballerina.

But when do I get to connect on some of the things that a person needs so urgently in this life. When do I get to teach her about being tough, dusting yourself off after setbacks and being able to feel and understand resiliency in real time, with real lessons.

What if she doesn’t play team sports, how do you bond? You must dig for those moments to connect with your daughter and teach what you’ve learned about competing and losing, but not quitting.

These moments in time could be gems to your daughter, but you must be ready, deliberate and prepared.

Be a Dad first. Treat her with respect. Daughters need a father. They don’t need you to be a friend. Silly dancing doesn’t work on a14-year-old. Don’t hang out the car window at school waving all crazy saying, “Hey, daddy’s over here.” She can see the car. It’s embarrassing and it helps solidify the ‘dumb daddy’ or as my wife calls it the ‘donuts for dummies’ stereotype. She already thinks you’re not cool. They have their own ideas about what’s cool and Boy George and Tony Toni Tone aren’t on the list.

Karis is strong and capable. She is smart and resilient. I won’t ‘check out’ as our relationship continues to change and grow. And I won’t get left behind.

Opportunity exists when she asks you for help on homework. Even if you don’t know the answer you can find solutions and encourage her to push forward. The opportunity exists when you witness someone making poor decisions or being a poor sport. Use those moments to share your own brand of wisdom with your daughter.

I tell my daughter, “Don’t put things in your suitcase of life. Don’t carry around that setback, the less than perfect grade or the missed opportunity to dance the lead.” We are only called to do our best. Life is often about feelings, and managing those feelings, which is so important to girls. This practice creates a sense of stability and ensures that life goes on even when things aren’t perfect. You are providing comfort in a different way. You are still dependable with good advice. Life isn’t perfect.

You want your daughter to learn these lessons now on the little things that in the grand scheme of things don’t matter so much. Use positive words. Tell her she is great! There are plenty of people out there that will try to put her down.

Don’t let that suitcase get full! Lugging it around is tiresome.

Keeping an empty suitcase requires toughness and resiliency. You are a master of resiliency, and you are her greatest teacher. Don’t miss a single opportunity to be involved and to let her know that action creates opportunity and she will trust you even more.

Andre Collins

asdf

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

In 2017, Stay Focused on Gratitude and Grace

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

This past year, in so many ways, life was unforgiving and cruel. We all witnessed some hard truths as it was clear the world is still wrought with danger and hate. It was a year in which many cared so little about their fellow man. At times in 2016, I was absolutely frustrated with how we treat one another and how it has become so common to make each other look bad or promote one’s failures. We stop at no end to demoralize each other.

In these times, it can be difficult to stay focused on gratitude and grace. Nevertheless, we must be thankful for all the things life has brought us this year whether good or bad.

Tough times always come. You can absolutely bet on it. But life provides lots of opportunity. This riotous time too shall pass.

We can survive change and tough times with patience and resolve. Wait uncomplainingly in your difficult situation. Get quiet and get still. Realize what you’re up against and pray for success. Don’t give in too much to the despair.

It is in this instance that it is wise to practice what we always preach at YourPAF ,“LIVE IN THE MOMENT!” It is written that God provides just enough grace for the day. Those are words that in stressful times I cling to.

We all have so much we are hoping for in 2017. May this be a year full of kindness. Seek it out and make a commitment to being better in your love relationships, your friendships and your kinships.

Together with Tyrone, Caryl, Leslie and all the PAF team; I wish you a happy new year, one in which you will take action because after all, Action Creates Opportunity.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Turning Inward: Get Back in Your Car

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

This morning on my way to work, I blew my horn at a guy driving ahead of me. I was perfectly within my rights as a driver. He was blocking an intersection while there was clearly room to move up, get out of the way and not block traffic. I’m sure you get the picture.

What happened next startled me. And it happened fast. The guy got out of his car and moved toward my wife and me. For a moment I felt defenseless. What if he tried to damage my car or punched me through my open window? The only thing I could think to protect myself was to also get out of the car. So I did and I looked at him with my craziest eyes; trust me I wouldn’t have wanted to mess with me. Then I said to him GET BACK IN YOUR CAR! I said it a few times. I think a little foam came out of my mouth too! He thought better of tangling with the younger version of myself that appeared for a split second. He shouted a few curse words and flashed a few hand gestures and quickly got back in his car.

What started out as an innocent drive with my wife, laughing to Steve Harvey on the Radio, took a sudden turn and got real serious for moment. I’m wound tight anyway, but at no point should I ever cross the line and think I can physically impose my will or physically engage another man whether or not he is right or wrong. Even just getting out was a risk. What did I have to prove?

We should always think about retreating inward to ourselves and leaving these types of curiosities alone. Pull yourself away from these sorts of senseless confrontations. Turn into yourself and keep guard. 

In our heads, there is an instinctive desire to participate in such activities, but in our hearts, we know otherwise. It seems right at the time but most certainly will bring remorse, guilt and shame in the end. Sometimes we must act, but let’s think before we act.  Weigh the real consequences of the prideful desire to be right. What if I had never blown my horn? Humble yourself when faced with the intense pride to fight back. Temper your desire in the moment; let that pause grace you with unmatched wisdom. The ruckus and commotion outside of your inner self serves little-to-no purpose when you retreat into yourself and leave senseless matters alone. Minding everyone’s business doesn’t help in the pursuit of a better version of you.

Peace be with you this holiday season.

Andre Collins

asdf

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Working Towards the Best Version of Me

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

In the wake of this year’s presidential election, I am reminded that anything is possible. I won’t reveal what side I’m on, but it gives me great hope, joy and motivation to know that with focus and determination we can defy odds when it appears there is no clear path to our goals.

But what’s next? I don’t just want what’s coming to me.

How do I get what I want? How do I get closer to a happy life?

“Next” is a word for me that doesn’t always mean “next in the order of things”. NEXT, to me, means healthier, enhanced, making thoughtful decisions for a better quality of life. It requires being mindful of the relationships I keep and how I treat the people in those relationships. I need to be calculated in how I budget and disciplined in spending money. I want to be strategic about career choices and how it impacts my time, my family and my stress.

I want NEXT in everything I do. I want progress and to be the best version of me.

I’m also hoping you will strive to be better. I want your ideas to be fresh and new. I want you to be alive with creativity and know that you are smart and capable. I want you to know the joy that comes with reaching and stretching higher.

As I watch you defy odds, I am awestruck with what you achieve when you put your mind to it. I celebrate your effort and willingness to conquer the unimaginable from where you started in life. We know how far we’ve come.

Continue to re-authorize your life and reform the negative thoughts that creep into your mind. Start small to solve your big issues. You have the tools. They look familiar and feel like purpose and grit!

Build your plan today through educating, communicating and advocating for the best version of you.

Action creates opportunity.

Andre Collins

asdf

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Donuts for Everyone, Coach’s Treat

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

I am coaching football this year for the first time. It’s amazing how the information locked away in the vaults of my mind has rushed back so quickly.

I want these kids to love football. I want them to understand setbacks and feel the joy that comes from working hard and winning. My team is young and inexperienced. Most of them are playing for the first time, but that is no excuse. I expect effort, focus, toughness and a sense of urgency.

Then I started thinking about my transition from football and the continued life transitions we all go through. Then my thoughts moved on to you leaving the game and discovering who you are after football.

There is fear when doing something for the first time. However, you can’t make excuses. Transitioning requires effort, focus and a sense of urgency.

Anxiety will set in and cloud your vision on taking aim at figuring things out. But life has a way through necessity and need to help you see things through.

Life is a series of moments laced together. Live in the moment knowing the next opportunity is just a moment away. You can change and succeed. You can do more than just survive.

What is your vision for a successful life? What does success look like for you?

Gather information and find your direction. Do the work. Do your best. Tap into the resources that are available through YourPAF.   Get energized! Take action today and move forward on this joyful journey.

And when we win together, donuts for everyone! Coach’s treat…

Andre Collins

asdf

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Create Your Positive Slogan

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

This week Penn State renews its football rivalry with Pitt. Pitt vs Penn State! Growing up in Jersey, there was only one place to be the day after Thanksgiving, glued to the TV waiting on Pitt/Penn State. The games were always close. Penn State beating Pitt’s best teams and vice versa. Yet seeing the story about the big game got me thinking about rivalries…and then even deeper about our rivalries or conflicts against self; the battle against our inner voice.

We have to overcome ourselves on a daily basis. There are things in our lives that challenge us. I tussle daily with self-discipline and self-denial. Eat too much, drink too much, spend too much and stress too much. I like chips and ice cream. I want it every day. My inner voice hammers me on this weakness.

As a former athlete I’m forever talking to my-self. Self-talk is something we all do. For me it sounds more like a football coach barking out orders. As you can guess my inner voice is not very calm.

My inner voice forever challenges me, but I’m human so doubt creeps in. The fight to overcome myself marches on. Stress builds. Expectations build. It never ends. We work hard and struggle to get more because we want this life to be better. The challenge is how to make your inner voice work for you and not against you. You can add stress by making the mistake of focusing your life around great expectations instead of being in the present moment.

Self-talk can turn negative quickly. Always pointing out the bad and what you’re missing instead of embracing where you are. Negative self-talk says you’re no good, and you start to believe it.

Stop yourself. Create positive slogans instead of focusing the negative. My new slogan on eating right is not about how bad certain foods are for me, but instead my inner voice now urges ‘successful’ eating. It allows me to be thoughtful before I make a bad decision. I win in the moment and the real me likes what success looks like.

What is making you sluggish today? Why do you feel a bit off? Slow yourself down. Analyze the situation, understand where certain feelings and moods are coming from.

But no matter what your voice sounds like, it can pick you up and help you get on with an industrious day. Or, it can discourage and depress you into inactivity.

Overcoming self is a game played for a lifetime. Be encouraged and don’t dwell on negative thoughts. You are disciplined and have full control of your mind.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Listen to What I’m Telling You (If you Can)

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

I’ve noticed lately that hardly a week goes by without a major newspaper or website discussing one of the many physical and mental challenges that we face after our days in the NFL.

Between the media coverage and Will Smith taking on the lead role in Concussion last year, almost everyone knows about the possible impact concussions can have on professional football players.  And even the wear and tear on our joints, that most of us experience, is becoming more commonly discussed and treated with programs and resources.

But there are some physical ailments that even many of our former players might not know about.  I can think of one that has impacted hundreds of players, and those are just the ones we know about.

In the last 18 months alone, the PAF and our partner EarQ have tested 227 former players for hearing loss, the third most common chronic health condition among adults.  What I’ve seen first hand is no joke. And the emotional impact a hearing aid can have on a player who doesn’t even know he has career-related hearing loss is powerful, it’s life altering.

I always come back to the opportunities we are afforded when we take action, and this is no different.  Just because we might not be aware of a problem, or an issue, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take preventative action.  I’ve seen players who think they are just fine come to hear the world around them in a brand new way.  It can bring tears to their eyes with the promise of new opportunities to hear their spouses, children and grandchildren–the world around them–in a way they didn’t even know they were missing.

Here at the PAF, we work hard to provide opportunities for you.  All we ask is that you make the time and take action.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Your Actions Create Opportunity for your Family

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Summer is for enjoying time with family. This summer is especially meaningful to me as my oldest is going off to college in the fall. I’m trying to cram so much into this summer, spending time with her one-on-one, sharing my brand of wisdom and lots of hugs. She is leaving and will not come back without changing a lot and growing more independent. When she returns it will be different than driving her home from school and asking “How are we looking on homework?”

It’s never too late to make time for our kids. Before you know it, they are gone. As parents we are both excited and saddened at moments like this. As she starts down her own path, I wonder “Where does this leave me?”

I’m reviewing the film on how I’ve done as a dad. Did I give her enough? On the nights I was tired, was I too selfish to engage? Is she prepared to make good decisions? Or at least not insurmountable mistakes?

One thing I do know is that time flies and that our family dynamic is about to change forever. Today, for her, I must project confidence and let her feel my peace with this transition. Yet, at the same time I need to be authentic in the moment and allow myself to acknowledge my feelings: strange, new and exciting. Ultimately, I need to realize that this is an even bigger deal to my daughter.

Some of you are ahead of me on this path, some are following. It’s never too early to start preparing and planning for our kids to be on their own. Take action early by saving for college and setting them up to succeed.

Making the time to be with our kids while they’re still at home will strengthen your connection so they will never be too far away. It creates opportunity not just for them, but for you to be a part of their lives and their families as they continue down their own path.

And when a family transition is upon you, don’t dismiss the emotions and fears that may rise. Ask a few questions. Evaluate the answers. Assure your child that you are always near and available. There are only so many things you can control. Pray and hope.

I’m all in on action creating opportunity and have a good feeling that my relationship with my daughter will only get better.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Don’t Get Caught by an Unsophisticated Trap

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Even though they wear shorts over cotton sweatpants, a look I’m never going for, coaches are known to be wise.

Hustle and play with your heart. Missed assignments equal missed tackles. Football is family. Let’s win together. These words still ring in my head.

But then there was this one anecdote that stuck with me from Coach Slowik during my time with the Chicago Bears. He told us a story about hunting monkeys in the forest. These monkeys loved cookies so much that a simple trap baited with gigantic chocolate chip cookies was all the hunters needed.

The opening in the box was just big enough for the monkey to put his hand in to grab the cookie, but not wide enough to remove the oversized treat. There was nothing to hold the monkey, paralyze it or inflict any pain whatsoever. Just a cookie inside a box.

The trap worked to perfection. The monkeys would reach in, grab the cookie and that was that. The trap was so unsophisticated that if the monkeys would just let go they would be free. Yet, they were so greedy, they would rather stay trapped holding on to a cookie they will never eat than go free.

Sometimes we get trapped, holding onto something we perceive is essential. We are so focused on results, on things we need to have or on dreams of reclaiming a past that will never return. We refuse to let go of material desires or “the good old days.” Sometimes we don’t realize we are so close to being free. Hanging on to the old is familiar. It’s safe. We think it is comfort, but really it’s just “the past.”

Don’t be like the greedy monkey. Let go. Let go now with a sense of urgency and deliberateness. Ernie Banks, the great Chicago Cubs baseball player once said, “Digging for gold is more important than the gold itself.”

Do the work. Do your best. Freedom is being in this moment, right now. A gigantic cookie, a mistake, a budget breaking purchase, or even a past success left behind, none of it truly matters. What matters is dialing into the present, and taking action today to move you forward on this wonderful journey we call life.

Andre Collins

asdf

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Pay Attention to How You Feel About Change

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

More and more, people call me “Sir” these days. No one seems to bat an eye when I sit up front on the 41 Bus (you know, in the old guy seats) when I head home from work. When did things change? When did this happen? Am I…old?

Where has the time gone? Another year has passed me by. The start of May brings a season of change for me. It marks the beginning of my birthday month. This year, my daughter Lola is off to the prom and college is on the horizon. My kids are growing fast, and soon my son will give up his crown as the shortest in the house to my wife. It’s weird seeing the kids taller than Ericka.

It’s supposed to be a time of joy and happiness, celebrating life and all the kids’ accomplishments. But wait, what about me?

I’m thinking about my age a lot more these days. I’m not as young as I used to be. And I’m not going to be around forever. There’s so much I haven’t done. Where is life going? Is this my midlife crisis?

We all want to be young, but don’t let this moment in your life be consumed with feeling that you haven’t lived up to your expectations of being in the perfect relationship, rich and having it all together.

Life can be a real grind. Sometimes I feel stuck, like I’m in a week full of Mondays. I struggle to wrap my mind around this feeling…like I’m standing in the same place time and time again.

These feelings can serve as a warning sign that something isn’t right. You don’t want your thoughts to have a negative impact on your performance and productivity at work and how you love in your relationships with your spouse and children.

I find myself paying attention to these feelings, these warning signs and it gets me focused. And I know I’m not alone, so let’s get focused!

We are no strangers to the power of following a gameplan. Identify where those feelings are originating. The boredom is simply saying you need to make some changes in your life.

Identify the problem. Can you fix it or do you need a change? What is creating your anxiety and can you change the course you’re on? Feelings will change over time.

Start to prepare. Ask yourself the tough questions. Are you in the right community? Have you saved enough money? Have you checked in on your relationships? Don’t ignore answers you don’t like and…

Embrace the things that are good and excite you. Do you have a good job? Are the kids bringing you joy? Are you mindful of your health? Do you look forward to the next vacation? Are weekends fun? Do more that makes you smile.

Sleep. Are you getting enough rest? Do you look tired? It all starts with sleep.

Positive Attitude. Your words and thoughts drive how you feel and act.

Giveback. Doing nice things for others can change your mood.

Life can be tough, but I’m also able. And at the end of the day I just want to be me.

I just checked in. Wife…good. Kids…good. God is great and the glass is still half full! Oh, and if you see me sitting in the “old guy” seat on the 41, feel free to ask me to move…just make sure to call me “Sir.”

Andre Collins

asdf

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

This is the Year to be All In

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

2016 is my year to stay relevant in this life. Apparently, the only way to stay relevant or important is by going big on social media. For me, I’m all in, traveling 100 miles per hour, ripping and roaring on the “information super highway.” I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and even Instagram. I ditched Myspace years ago! I’m texting, tweeting, posting and checking for likes. Believe it or not, one of my Facebook posts actually got 150 likes. My kids are appalled! They say I shouldn’t be so pressed for likes. The kids call that ‘being thirsty’ or pressing for attention, which I now know is not an admirable thing on social media. Nonetheless, I don’t care. For now I will stay ‘thirsty’! But in all seriousness, nothing in social media excites me more than www.yourpaf.com, and thank you for visiting the website and making it a success.

In case you’re not riding the tech-tidal wave with me, the Professional Athletes Foundation (PAF) is a non-profit organization that supports the advancement of former players through a wide range of services and resources. And YourPAF allows us to bring stories that speak directly to players and their families. As you grow with us, we will continue to listen and deliver services that are relevant and meaningful in your life today-right now, at this moment.

Our community of former players is stronger than ever with the revamped membership opportunities and free lifetime NFLPA membership. The career and quality of life support offered by the Trust has had a direct impact on improving how players leave the game. Again, we will always do our best to make sure you have the widest access to resources and shareable information pertaining to the lives of former NFL players on the planet.

Our mission from the get-go has been simple: Action Creates Opportunity.

We want to drive action in the lives of players in order to create stronger families and in turn stronger, more optimistic communities. As you become familiar with yourPAF.com, you will learn this site is dedicated to creating an environment that confirms life is good while enjoying success after football.

Now, I know what you are thinking…Andre, that sounds a whole lot like you’re pressing for “likes.” You’re right, but this time it isn’t because I don’t care. When it comes to our former players well-being, I care that much.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Women’s History Month & Thoughts on Courage

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

As most of us know, February is Black History Month. Unfortunately, less are aware that March is Women’s History Month, and in my growth, I’ve learned how important it is to honor the women in our lives and the contributions they make to this great nation. If I sound like a politician, and I realize I do, it may be the 26 years living in Washington, D.C. rubbing off on me. But in an election year, I think it’s necessary to call attention to some of the women who have helped shape our country through the Revolutionary War, Civil War and Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Living a fearless life is not about being better than the next person. Sometimes we are afraid of the dangers and disappointments life serves up. Fearlessness is not overconfidence; on the other hand, it isn’t about being consumed with overcoming your fears either. You just have to be willing to face your fears and do your best with the skills you have. True courage is just having the strength to face the day ahead of you, with its blessings and sorrows. That is living a fearless life.

  • Lydia Darragh risked her life to share secrets with General George Washington.
  • Phillis Wheatley, born a slave and revolutionary wartime poet, wrote about patriotism and the greatness of America while still enslaved after the Revolutionary War.
  • Hannah Arnett challenged her husband and others to continue the fight for the colonists’ independence.
  • The stories of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Harriet Tubman as Civil War era abolitionists are well documented.
  • Rosa Park’s courage during the Civil Rights Movement stirred a nation to act. In ‘the moment’ she was tired and had true courage to face the day’s burden.
  • Viola Luizzo and Penny Patch, both white Americans and not household names, were surely difference makers for millions of Americans for their sacrifice during the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman elected to Congress; representing the 12th Congressional District, New York City in 1969. Chisholm also ran for the Democratic nomination for President in 1972, and was the first woman to win delegates for a Presidential nomination by a major party.

All these things, I’m almost certain, happened because these courageous women faced ‘the moment’. You see courage is the ability to act on one’s beliefs despite danger or condemnation.

Courage is daring. Courage is bold. Courage is “grit.” And courage isn’t concerned with race, income and most importantly, gender. When your moment arises, you need to be ready to face your fear and take action.

Sometimes courage calls us when we least expect its arrival. It is untimely, unfair and unnerving. But what is a life lived without a call to stand up and without a willingness to face fears and be the best you can be?

But don’t take my word for it, just ask one of the countless women in your life who propped you up and made the necessary sacrifices to help you accomplish your goals.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

The Communities that Shape NFL Players

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

I recently returned home to Cinnaminson, NJ to present my high school with a ‘golden football’ in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl. I wasn’t expecting much on the drive up from D.C. with my son, Chet. Truthfully, I spent some time on Interstate 95 mapping out my return to DC: based on traffic how long will the drive home take? and what do I have waiting when I get back? After all, this would be a simple trip. I’ll shake a few hands, take a few pictures and check the box on one more visit home.

As I entered the school office, I was greeted by my old friend Angie’s big smile; it was like no time had passed. Strolling the halls felt good. And the thoughts of my plans back in DC disappeared.

I walked into the school library to greet the principal. It wasn’t just a few hands. There was a community of teachers, coaches and friends waiting to say hello, share a hug and maybe some old pictures. I was completely overwhelmed by all the love and support.

It got me thinking about how much family and community has poured into my life. Looking out into the audience, I realized that my accomplishments were shared with Cinnaminson, and rightfully so. From Mark Lassiter to ‘Topper’ Clemons to Darrell Hazell and Rob Topolski, I stand on their shoulders. From Ms. Adderley to Ms. Karsh and Ms. Sammartino, I learned so much about respect, literature, art and people. They were the ones who watered the seeds of confidence in an impressionable teenager. I wasn’t perfect, and there is plenty I wish I could take back and do over, but so much time has passed and there has been so much growth beyond those years. And that all started with the community of family, friends, teachers and mentors invested in me.

Think about it, there are opportunities every day to make a difference in someone’s life: to be part of their community. You can make it easier for someone else by taking a moment to teach and share your experiences. You never know if that young person in front of you is full of energy and ideas, needing someone to look up and tell him or her, You are full of potential. You are allowed to hope and dream.

Stop. Breathe. Exhale. Remind yourself that you are qualified to help someone celebrate all of the small victories. Life is way more fun that way.

Needless to say, my drive back to DC with Chet was less about beating traffic and more about the quality time we had on the journey.

Andre Collins

asdf

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

January – Forging a New Normal

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Alright, back to the grind. The holiday season has passed. I give myself a B- for sticking to my budget and diet. I was fine until I went home to Cinnaminson, New Jersey; how many cheesesteaks can one guy eat? That’s where I went wrong. I should practice what I preach, but life is a working transition and I vow to get better.

Enjoying time with family and friends during the holiday season is fun and a well-deserved break. Now, how do you shake the cobwebs and get moving, rejuvenated and motivated to have a better year? The New Year is always a time to reflect, as you turn your eyes inward, and evaluate the past year. It is important to take an honest look yourself.

Did reach your goals? Did you forget about a few? Did you get better?

It’s hard to be honest with yourself, but life is about trying and we have to set new goals and recommit to those left unfinished. Write them down so those goals become real. Like Emmitt Smith says, ”It’s only a dream until you write it down, and then it becomes a goal.”

Get excited about taking personal inventory on the year. There is positive energy in the hope of doing better. And a blessed feeling to know you have another day to try. As players we always looked forward to the next practice or next opportunity to correct our mistakes and make a big play.

Reaching for the stars is fine when setting your goals, but be realistic. There are only so many hours in the day. Prioritize what needs to change in your life. Write those few things down.

Game plan yourself. Admit your bad habits that keep you from winning. You can make changes for a better chance to reach your goals. Make new habits; forge a new normal. It won’t take long to become the next generation of you. Life is a glass half full.

Keep an eye out for the PAF PepTalks, self-help styled pep talks for players and their families.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

December – You Are The Author of Your Future

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Do you ever sit and think about all the things you could have done differently. Things that would make life a little sweeter now? When do I get to win in this life? When am I going to break free? It’s a tough place to be emotionally, but it’s also human nature to reflect and look back on where we’ve been. It’s easy to dwell on poor decisions of the past. But it’s never too late to win in this life.

Constantly looking back at what could have been is a dangerous practice that blocks personal growth and development. Let today be the start to making an ‘excellent’ ending.

Today is the key word here. Beyond lessons learned, digging up the old emotions connected to failure can’t help us today. Live in the present. No matter how hurtful the past has been, stop yourself from the unproductive exercise of refusing to turn the page. Take personal inventory, in this present moment, of where you are physically, emotionally, financially and psychologically. Be realistic in your assessment.

You get to write your own ending, but successfully reaching a goal takes time, patience and discipline. Discipline…that’s a word you know well. You have become a master of discipline. Just get started. Do what you can right now with the knowledge and resources you have. Quietly, over time, you will see a difference. Trust me, I’ve wasted more time than anyone. My personal rut has been well defined over the years, back and forth, same old rut. Getting better is about getting focused and making good decisions, not bad decisions that will impact your later years.

Make life simple. Figure out what’s most important in your life. Focus on the four or five good things that really matter, and build the core of your time and existence around those fundamental things first.

Everything in your life should be up for review. It doesn’t matter what age you are. With small changes you will gain confidence, and bigger changes will naturally follow.

  1. Take inventory on what’s important, who’s important and who you want to become. Think about what’s keeping you in the rut and from becoming the person you want to be.
  2. Start simple. What can I change today? The small victories will help you gain confidence.
  3. Don’t be scared. The worst thing that can happen is you stay the same. With any effort staying the same is not possible

Ready…Set…Go. Action Creates the Opportunity to get it right for 2016.

 

November – Focus on the Joy of the Season

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

November marks the beginning of the holiday season. A time of joy and happiness and family, right? That is part of the equation, don’t forget the holiday obligations that turn your calendar upside down, the gifts and charity requests that put a strain on your budget, or all of the different directions your family, friends and employers may pull you. Knowing what is truly important and blocking out the distractions is a necessary skill that will help you focus on the joy of the season.

Breathe. Let’s get focused. You are no stranger to the power of focus and ritual. Many of the same techniques you employed leading up to kickoff are the keys to mentally get through this busy season. Stress doesn’t stand a chance.

Your holiday game plan: Don’t worry, don’t overspend, don’t overcommit.

Be aware of what can go wrong and have a plan to slow down and evaluate your decision making process. You do not need to say “yes” to every ask. Ask for time to think it over. Your game plan will prevent future harms and future stresses.

There are no ‘do overs’ after a month of overcommitting and overspending. Correcting the budget after overspending can take months of sacrifice to fix, an unnecessary waste of time that will be avoided when you stick to your game plan. Prepare for the expected. Anticipate the unexpected. Let’s get focused. Breathe.

Anticipate that an extra day or two with the extended family, or some “70% Off for One Day Only” deal, will come up. That’s where the game plane comes in.

Visualize what it feels like when you don’t have time to relax and when you spend money you can’t afford to spend. This is where I need you to focus.

Evaluate the consequences. Even though you can make the time and squeeze out the money, can you live with the uncomfortable feeling of survival after you overcommit? Take a deep breath.

Now, rehearse your “No.” It’s as easy as reminding yourself, “I have other commitments that require my time and money in the coming weeks.” Bullet dodged!

Quality time with family and for yourself is back on the table. Your balanced budget brings both satisfaction and a warm holiday smile. Preparation and anticipation is action. And this time it creates an opportunity for peace of mind.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

October – The Importance of Self Awareness

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Mindfulness. The new found popularity and sudden interest around the value of self-awareness is now a full fledged “movement.” By definition, mindfulness is the intentional unprejudiced focus on emotions, thoughts and feelings occurring all around you in the present moment; responding to what is real and happening now.

I, like most people, thought being deeply “aware of oneself” was a discipline practiced as part of religious and spiritual  traditions. But when I gave it some more thought, it made sense; understanding your skills, talents and abilities allows you to connect to something pure.

You need to challenge yourself and engage the prospects of being more attentive to your emotions and the energy your inner voice creates. Knowing your strengths is part of being mindful and will prepare you to do your best in the moment.

Action creates opportunity.  I know you hear me say it almost every month, but that is because I truly mean it.  It should never get old.  Isn’t it better to be prepared to take action when the moment arises?

Being in the moment has long been held as the secret to world class performance, no matter what the field. Don’t speculate or dream too far ahead without dealing with the here and now.  Our time on the field, playing at the highest level, combined with the unique challenges of transitioning has uniquely prepared us to remain balanced through anything life will throw in our path.

Knowing your limits is not a bad thing.  Think of it as a set of helpful hints.

Ponder this, the centuries-old quote says, “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”  I would argue you are equally deceiving yourself if you are something and think you are any less.  Be mindful. Be self-aware. Become aware of how close greatness is in your life.

Andre Collins

asdf

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

September – A New Season Begins

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Whew! Summer has passed. For you dads, it is ok to breath now. You survived summer by learning some new tips on saving money, grocery shopping and eating at home. Truth is, no need to keep up with the Jones’ if the Jones’ are swimming in debt.

It’s back to school for the kids and it should be back to school for you. No one likes change, especially when it is about your own life. Change takes energy, money and sometimes beats up your pride. Even when you know change is necessary and you can’t sustain your current path, you resist making change at all costs. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. It is natural to have a real hesitation about moving forward.

Break out of this thought process. Take a deep breath, gather the facts and overcome. Start by planning things out. Take a personality test or skills assessment to move toward a career that will make you most happy and fulfilled. Ask yourself the tough questions. Should I change jobs? Get more education? Or take your first job after football making $30,000 a year? All of these are good questions and planning will help eliminate the procrastination and begin to provide answers.

Walk, don’t run. Create a little momentum by seeking advice. Making tough decisions is hard. But over time things begin to make sense and your new deliberate approach to life will produce new successes, new gratifications and new great stories to tell.

The NFLPA, Trust and Professional Athletes Foundation make up a team that exists to serve former NFL players. Investigate today.

The sun is shining somewhere out there. Take action and you might find your paradise is just around the corner.

Andre Collins

asdf

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

August – Good Times, Memories and Belly Laughs

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

With August here, I hope the information on financial responsibility during the summer has been helpful, and put to practical use. My family and I certainly did our part to save. By taking a few inexpensive day trips and road trips we saved hundreds. The trips were all short drives to Atlantic City, Charlotte, and Pittsburgh. Frankly, the good times, memories and belly laughs were the same as if we had gone some place more exotic.

At home, I made it a point to do the grocery shopping for the family. The first benefit came in the form of big savings; I avoided the common occurrence of taking the family out to eat because the fridge was never bare. I also learned something about my family, the kids preferred to eat in; and as long as I had plenty of kale salad and cauliflower for my wife then she was happy too.

Next, and just as important, it allowed me to pick up the mint chip ice cream that has become my weakness. I’ll make sure to click on a YourPAF.com ‘Body’ resource to keep that craving in check.

Finally, eating in allowed for good family time and a chance for my wife and I to get creative in the kitchen. From zucchini boats to cauliflower steaks, from homemade smoothies to burgers sandwiched between glazed donuts; we tried it all.

As I look back on my choices, and the savings it has provided, I am reminded of the importance of staying focused on healthy financial decisions. Life keeps moving and planning ahead will help me stay ahead.

The holiday season is off in the distance, but start thinking about your holiday budget today, during summer.

  • Build up savings that are specific to holiday travel and gift giving.
  • Check in with your kids now to see what they want for Christmas.
  • Start to engage realistically what Santa may be able to deliver.

Don’t be surprised by your child’s creativity or desire for something small. You just may learn that taking action this far out will provide you with the opportunity to give your family the best holiday season yet.

But not so fast, we still have over a month left in summer and plenty of time to get ahead of your budget while dipping your feet into the local pool or nearby beach.

Andre Collins

asdf

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

July – They Don’t Call It Summer Vacation for Nothing

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Summer is in full swing and the doldrums are starting to set in. But don’t let summer fly by without the chance to relax and unplug. If you’re anything like most Americans, and me, it’s easy to get caught up in a ‘day to day’ routine.

With extra daylight you might convince yourself to extend the workday because it’s still light outside. Consistently extending the workday comes with consequences: overtime fatigue, crankiness and lack of focus.

My dad was a wallpaper hanger for 47 years, I get it. Work is the backbone of our existence. But at the same time, don’t lose sight of the benefits of rest. Science explains if you push yourself through too many hours or days of work, ultimately, your brain starts to push back. Ideas that once came quickly begin to slow down to a grinding halt. Easy tasks become difficult. Then we work harder trying to compensate without improved results.

Make sure you build in some shorts breaks during the day. Allow your mind a chance to fix itself on a different task. Take a vacation. Summer is for vacation. Allow yourself enough time to get completely relaxed. Treat yourself to an afternoon off. A regularly scheduled afternoon break may provide the balance that leads to more productivity in the workplace.

Finally, I like the sound of this one, take a mid-day nap. You read that right, I just said a mid-day nap. Evidence shows people who take naps are more alert, more productive and less prone to mistakes. Strategic rest is healthy and essential to a high quality of life.

We constantly stress that your actions today will create better opportunities for tomorrow. Do not confuse rest with inaction. For your overall health, a little bit of rest and relaxation is just the action you need to take in order to stay sharp, on your game and able to take advantage of the opportunities that wait ahead.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

June – The Best Summer Money Can’t Buy

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Ah, yes.  Longer days and warmer weather can only mean one thing: Summer is finally here! Time to kick back and relax. But not too fast, don’t let Summer lull your finances to sleep.

Summer overspending is a real danger that lurks in some of the most tempting places. Dining out, family vacation, updating your summer wardrobe and overspending to entertain the kids can destroy your monthly budget if you don’t safeguard against excess indulgence.  Many of us never learned how to manage money and live in an ongoing state of emergency. Managing your money within a monthly budget is an active process that requires attention.

If you assume your financial future is set, you are potentially setting yourself up for a devastating reality check.  There are always big expenses looming: car repairs, tuition and other unplanned emergencies. It’s Murphy’s Law that something will go wrong.

And if you fall behind, the avoidance of your financial commitments brings with it depression and low self-esteem.  A vicious circle that contributes to falling even further behind.

Mark my words, you can have the best summer of your life without breaking the bank-or your budget.

Get smart. Plan ahead. Resist sinking into an easy pattern of going out for dinner every night.  Plan backyard barbecues with your neighbors, or picnics with friends you’ve lost touch with, trips to the library with your kids, or day trips to the beach and waterpark for some quality family time.

As players finding financial stability is our goal, we are dedicated to help you have the most fun summer of your life. All month long we will provide articles to help you find activities that will maximize your physical, mental and social health while keeping your finances stronger than ever.

Don’t let Summer ‘Flossing’ and Keeping Up with the Jones’ get you off track.

Now…back to that grill and iced tea on the patio.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

May – A new season awaits your ambitions

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Don’t you just love spring time?  So far, the season is off to a great start here in Washington, DC. Flowers are in bloom with beautiful variations of yellow, pink and white.  The grass is a rich green and the sky a bold blue. A new season awaits our ambitions.

No one felt this more than the young men who were lucky enough to hear their names called at the NFL Draft in Chicago.  As I was watching, I couldn’t help reminiscing about my own personal football journey. The highs. The lows. The victories and the challenges.  And if I knew then what I know now, oh, how much I would have done differently.

But there is a bit of beauty in the ebbs and flows of my past.  I now have the opportunity to put those first hand lessons to good use as I help guide my own children on their journeys.

And I’m not alone in this mindset.  Several former players heard their sons’ names called this weekend during the Draft.  What a wonderful opportunity we have to guide our sons first hand through the game and beyond.  Furthermore, what a wonderful realization for both generations of these players, father and son alike, this past weekend.

We all know how much time and effort goes into playing and then transitioning to a life after football. Let’s make sure we are doing enough to guide each other to the resources that can make the decision process on a number of things a bit easier.

Like a father guides his son, let’s guide one another.  Take action and connect to the resources at yourpaf.com for clarity when it comes to improving the quality of your life. Your opportunities await.

I can’t get over how time flies, but I promise it gets better. Enjoy each and every moment!

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

April – It’s Time to Turn the Corner

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Winter weather is behind us and the flowers are in bloom…What are you doing? Get up and get outside!

Springtime is rich with wonderful stories of change and accomplishment.  It’s easy to get sucked into the doldrums of winter without thinking about all the different ways a sedentary lifestyle can harm you.

Are you seeing the fruits of commitment to your New Year’s resolutions?

I hope so, but odds are you gave up on the resolutions some time ago.  Don’t worry, it happens to most of us.  The change in seasons gives you a chance to shed your coats and enjoy an active lifestyle with family and friends.

I personally enjoy getting outside and exercising. This spring, I’m giving yoga a chance–don’t worry, I won’t be posting any pictures on Instagram just yet. Nevertheless, flexibility also adds to a healthy lifestyle.

Outdoors feels different than the treadmill. I’m not breaking any speed records when I jog, but I “run to live” or “exercise to stay alive.”

Just making a mindful decision to burn some calories gives you a better quality of life, and in some cases can actually save your life. You never know how close you are to that moment the silent killers–stress, stroke, obesity and heart disease–are planning an ‘episode’ in your life. With the help of our partnerships and resources, take the time to reintroduce yourself to fitness. YourPAF.com will feature a number of articles this spring that center on a healthier lifestyle, healthier choices and sharing that healthier focus with family.

Take control of your own ‘healthy’ destiny. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start slow with simple goals. Over time your decision will become habit and sustainable change.

Stories about how former players live their lives have always moved me. Write to me (Andre.collins@nflpa.com) so  I can share your successes with the PAF Family.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

March – Look Around & Look Ahead

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

There are very few things I enjoy more than spending time with my family in public spaces, enjoying the “here and now.”  I get caught up in the moment.  I take notice of the couple sitting a few tables down in a new and exciting relationship.  The family across the street laughing over ice cream.  The energy coming from young business men and women capping off a long week at the office.  That’s why I find myself surprised that I’ve been looking ahead to May.

I want to get serious for a moment.  May is National Mental Health Month and it’s just around the corner. In a time when there is so much confusion about holding down a job, investing in this economy, managing a relationship and rearing a child, it’s easy to feel like things are unraveling quickly.  Ask yourself this question: When I look at life as a tall glass of water, what do I see?

Does it look half full? Half empty?  Are you optimistic about the future?  Are you curious about how life will unfold? Are things way off course from your vision?

These are all questions that, if unchecked, can ignite into a firestorm of uneasy emotions. The joy of life doesn’t have to be sacrificed in the midst of tough times. As a matter of fact, it shouldn’t be sacrificed at all.  Working through hard times with a clear focus and deliberateness can be unquestionably joyful.

If you’re finding it tougher than normal and you are not getting any relief from you emotions and thoughts, it may be time to ask for help. And get this, asking for help is OK. Real men ask for help.

Life’s uncontrollable situations are fundamentally linked to a person feeling depressed. And don’t kid yourself, depression is very real. The good news? Mental health issues, including depression, are very treatable.

Throughout the coming months, YourPAF will feature articles to educate former players and loved ones about mental health and the available resources. Our relationships with the University of Michigan Depression Center, the National Network of Depression Centers and other care services provide the Professional Athletes Foundation with sound direction to assist former players impacted by depression and mental health issues.

Log on to the University of Michigan Depression Center website at http://www.depressiontoolkit.org/ and look for the self-assessments. Together, we can work through anything.

The first step, ask for help.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

February – Your Best Teammates

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

As February takes hold, I reflect on my days as a college football player at good ol’ State…Penn State, that is.  We made the decision as players to wholeheartedly commit to one another. We fought for each other. We sacrificed for each other.  And we loved each other based on a single theme: Get to the ball with all your heart and do your best to make the tackle. You can be fearless because I’m near and on my way to help you.

To every former player out there, the Professional Athletes Foundation has your back. Be fearless. As long as you are trying, together, we will not fail. Teamwork isn’t confined to the field of competition. The best teammates in life may be family or friends.

This February we want to take the opportunity to help you be the best teammate for the people closest to you. Gentlemen, with Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I want to make something perfectly clear. Take out the trash. Pick up your clothes. Listen to what she says and score big with a box of chocolates!

In all seriousness, it’s the work you put into your marriage and the special relationships with your family and friends that will leave you fulfilled. This type of sustained happiness will reap success in all areas of your life. Be optimistic. Be curious about what the best relationship looks and feels like. Don’t be stubborn. Change your approach…not your lady.

Changing your approach will be the breakthrough your relationship needs. Let’s think about that for a minute and explore the endless possibilities…together.

I keep saying “life is work,” but when you put that time in, you create opportunity.

But before you celebrate, build your game plan. Check out some of this month’s relationship articles for guidance.

Confidence is everything. Get your swagger back! Pop the bubbly and make her wonder aloud, “Who is this guy?”

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Andre Collins

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

February 2015

AndreEdNote

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

In the spirit of openness, honesty, and public humility I’m sharing my thoughts on what I’ve learned about holiday time.  I’m always so excited for this time of year: the holiday lights, the hustle, the bustle and the chance to make dreams come true.

The holiday season is the perfect time for us to reflect on the past year and all the good things in our lives.  However, it also can be a very stressful and emotional time.  The loss of loved ones and the end of close relationships, combined with the hectic pace of people and spending around us, often turns what should be a relaxing season into one of exhaustion and confusion.  This year, don’t overspend and overextend yourself in your commitment to others.

Family and friends are important, and celebrating the holiday season is memorable. However, coming out of the holiday season on budget and focused on strengthening family relationships and financial outlook must be the goal.

Don’t let the excitement sweep you up only to come crashing down in January to the reality that you overspent, overate and used way too much time trying to please ‘MOM and THEM’- on both sides of the family!

Then it’s cold, your money is low and you’re left with a juggling act trying to get the budget back on course. I’m certainly not a financial advisor. And trust me, I’ve been in that same ‘hole’ with you. But…

Don’t ignore the warning signs of irritability, a bad temper, frustration and withdrawal. Don’t borrow money to make dreams come true. Stay focused on your budget. Don’t deviate too far from your daily routine. There are only so many hours in the day.  Manage your family’s expectations. You can do this through effective communication. Be honest by telling them the sky is not the limit. Sit down with family especially children and get an understanding of what they are hoping for. You will be surprised how little they want. It is often our own egos that elevate their expectations.

So don’t get caught up in the whirlwind of being out and about. Quality time at home is festive. That is exactly what makes it a magical time of year.

The Professional Athletes Foundation is available as a resource to give you tips on surviving holiday stress, building more meaningful relationships with family and giving you the tools to effectively communicate to your loved ones that you don’t want to overspend or over commit your time. Start building a holiday game plan today.

Happy Holidays,

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Andre Collins

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

September/October- A Happier You

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

As we continue to develop our Professional Athletes Foundation website, public attention has focused on many of the critical challenges facing former players. Our goal has always been to concentrate efforts on potential solutions, rather than simply cataloging the problems facing former NFL players and their families.

In the coming months, I want to continue to show you positive images of yourself and highlight the impact positive messaging and our resources have on our former player community. We never want to fall short when it comes to providing service and exploring solutions, but we also want to celebrate your many successes and what you are doing to make things better for the people and children in your lives. Life is good as a former player.

Action Creates Opportunity. And a first order of business is health insurance.

Through the Affordable Care Act every American is now required to have health insurance. Individuals and families that were not able to afford health insurance in the past now have several options to obtain affordable health insurance. Do you have health insurance? If the answer is no, you can enroll beginning November 15th. 

I want to be clear, having health insurance is now the law. If you do not comply, you will pay a tax for not having health insurance.

If you and your family do not have health insurance, the NFL Players Association is proud to recommend Working America Health Care. In collaboration with GoHealth, Working America Health Care offers you information and an easy way to shop for health insurance and compare carriers, plans and prices side by side. You won’t find lower rates anywhere else. Also, find out if you qualify for lower costs based on your income.

We are making a concerted effort together with the NFLPA Former Players Department and the TRUST (powered by the NFLPA) to confirm that every former player has health insurance at the end of the enrollment period. We’re counting down to November 15thTake action and GET INSURED.

After all, a healthy you is a happier you.

 


Andre Collins

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

 

July/August

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Thanks to you, yourPAF.com is off to a fast start. We have already reached hundreds of former players and are gaining momentum each day.

I have always looked to the summer as a time to focus on self, health, nutrition and spending time outside with my family. Your feedback suggests that I am not alone.  These topics are important to our entire family of former players. We are still on the first leg of this journey, but we have strong legs and lots of experience serving former NFL players. We’re just hitting our stride.

As a non-profit organization the Professional Athletes Foundation (PAF) is focused on supporting the advancement of former players through a wide range of services and resources.

Together we will continue this journey, filled with curiosity, enthusiasm and a belief that we are making a difference. Players will continue to grow and challenge themselves many years beyond football. We want to do our part by honoring players and the positive image NFL players project in the community.

As you become familiar with yourPAF.com, you will learn this site is dedicated to creating an environment that confirms life is good while enjoying success after football.

With yourpaf.com, you now have the widest access to resources and shareable information pertaining to the lives of former NFL players- on the planet.

Using your smart phone, desktop computer, or tablet you will find:

  • Important lifestyle & industry topics
  • Quick access to programs & services created just for you
  • Simple, yet powerful, ways improve the quality of your life

Playing the game we love relied on having the best information and training available. Life after football is no different. We’ve said it before, Action Creates Opportunity.

Your opportunities are waiting; we can help you start taking action today.


Andre Collins

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

PS. Don’t forget to bookmark this page or add yourpaf.com to your home screen for quick access.

May/June: Action Creates Opportunity

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

2014 is in full swing. As we look ahead I want to introduce the Professional Athletes Foundation (PAF): a non-profit organization that supports the advancement of former players through a wide range of services and resources.

I’m excited about our community of former players and, as a former player; I truly love being a part of an effort that has deep ties to its history. With the launch of yourpaf.com, you now have the widest access to resources and shareable information pertaining to the lives of former NFL players- on the planet.

Working side-by-side with you has inspired us to revamp our effort around a simple mission: Action Creates Opportunity.

We want to drive action in the lives of players in order to create stronger families and in turn stronger, more optimistic communities. As you become familiar with yourPAF.com, you will learn this site is dedicated to creating an environment that confirms life is good while enjoying success after football. As you grow with us, we will continue to listen and deliver services that are relevant and meaningful in your life today-right now, at this moment.

Using your smart phone, desktop computer, or tablet you will find:

  • Important lifestyle & industry topics
  • Quick access to programs & services created just for you
  • Simple, yet powerful, ways improve the quality of your life

As the Executive Director of the PAF, I’m proud to represent a staff dedicated to players and an enriched player experience. Playing the game we love relied on having the best information and training available. Life after football is no different.

Your opportunities are waiting; we can help you start taking action today.


Andre Collins

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

PS. Don’t forget to bookmark this page or add yourpaf.com to your home screen for quick access.